If you had to sum up the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in
a few words, it would be "healthy eating patterns."
The guidelines are issued by the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health
and Human Services every five years to reflect the latest research in
health and nutrition science. "In the past, these guidelines have
focused on certain types of food groups or specific nutrients," says
Jason Jilk, MD, an internal medicine and pediatrics physician at
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group. "But the latest edition takes a more holistic focus with its emphasis
on healthy eating patterns, which is what a person eats and drinks over
a long period of time. So it's not looking at fads or the latest diet
trends, but establishing mindful eating habits over a lifetime."
See the graphic below from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health
Promotion to learn more about how you can follow a healthy eating pattern
The guidelines also have more specific recommendations on how you can develop
a healthy eating pattern. "The research accompanying the guidelines
shows Americans do not eat enough produce, whole grains, legumes, seafood
and dairy," Dr. Jilk says. "These foods are all important components
in a healthy diet." Dr. Jilk outlines some of the important ways
you can implement healthier foods into your diet to create a lifelong
pattern of nutritional health and wellness that not only nourishes the
body but also decreases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and
other health problems:
* Aim for variety as well as quantity when it comes to eating vegetables.
"According to the guidelines, American mainly eat potatoes, tomatoes,
lettuce and onions when it comes to vegetables," Dr. Jilk says. "There
are so many other types of vegetables out there with terrific health benefits,
such as dark, leafy greens and red and orange veggies. Try to work more
of every kind of vegetable into your diet--for instance, make a spinach
salad with a variety of veggies such as butternut squash or red bell peppers,
blend some kale into a smoothie or mix veggies into soups or sauces."
* Keep your fruit intact. "Whole fruits are best--juiced fruits lose
their healthy fiber, and many processed juices may have added sugar,"
Dr. Jilk says. "As with vegetables, you'll want to eat a wide
variety and incorporate them into dishes in creative ways. Berries can
top oatmeal or yogurt, different fruits can be combined in a fruit salad,
or you can make a fruit salsa using pineapple or mango for fish or poultry.
And fruit always makes a great dessert."
* Know your grains. "Many Americans eat more than enough processed,
refined grains, but not enough whole grains, which are good sources of
fiber and nutrients," Dr. Jilk says. "Whole grains include brown
rice, oats, popcorn, barley and bulgur. When it comes to bread, look for
'whole wheat' or 'whole grain' on the label. If it says
refined or enriched flour, it's not whole grain. At least half of
the grains you eat should be whole grains."
* Go fish. "When it comes to protein, Americans should be eating more
seafood as part of a rich spectrum of foods," Dr. Jilk says. "They're
a great source of omega-3 fats while being low in bad saturated fats.
Other healthy sources of protein include poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans,
peas and lean meats."
* Limit added sugars in your diet. "For the first time, the guidelines
put an actual limit on this, saying these sugars added to foods during
processing should make up no more than 10 percent of your daily calories,"
Dr. Jilk says. "And remember, this doesn't count sugars found
naturally in foods, such as fruits."
* Cut back on saturated fat and sodium. "Like added sugar, saturated
fat should be no more than 10 percent of your daily diet," Dr. Jilk
says. "And watch your salt intake--the research behind the guidelines
stated that adults eat about 50 percent more sodium than is recommended.
You should have less than 2,300 milligrams per day, so be sure to check
labels on food for the sodium levels."
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.