(As seen in the Surprise Independent)
The public lambastes the U.S. government a lot these days for poking its nose into areas where many people may feel it doesn’t belong.
Thus, with the recent release of the government’s 2015- 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we might think, “You mean the government is telling us what to eat and not eat? Who invited Big Brother into our kitchens and dining rooms?”
However, if we take time to read and digest the guidelines, we’ll find they contain well-researched and practical information on eating habits that promote overall health and help prevent chronic disease. The latter is a big deal because about half of all Americans have one or more chronic diseases, often related to a poor diet.
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The Dietary Guidelines are jointly produced every five years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These agencies gather some of the top nutrition scientists in the nation to develop the recommendations.
The notion of a one-size-fits-all eating pattern has been cleared from the table. In its place is a focus on three healthy eating styles, which the scientists group into one main eating style and two variations on that style.
The Healthy U.S. Style eating pattern is based on the types and portions of foods Americans typically consume. It emphasizes eating “nutrient-dense” foods and in modest amounts. Foods include vegetables from all subgroups (dark green, red and orange, legumes, starchy, and others); fruits, especially whole fruits; mostly whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy and a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, as well as nuts, seeds and soy products The Healthy Mediterranean-Style eating pattern is a blend of the healthy U.S. Style pattern and the standard Mediterranean-style diet, long associated with good health and longevity.
The Healthy Mediterranean allows more fruit and seafood than the Healthy U.S. Style, but it cuts back on dairy. It’s mostly a plant-based style, with allowances for fish and chicken, and a little red meat.
The Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern is another variation on the Healthy U.S. Style but it includes more soy products, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains to replace meat, poultry and seafood. Dairy and eggs also are included.
In summary: These three patterns provide us with roadmaps for reaching a healthier destination. The government is not trying to take over our plates. Rather, its aim is to keep our plates and their contents from taking us over.
Susan Welter is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing.
(Originally published Aug. 6, 2016; last updated Jan. 12, 2019.)