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by Brahmlin Sethi, RD, CBIS, Special Tree Rehabilitation System

Since 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act stated that every 5 years Dietary Guidelines for general public would be required to be published jointly by U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and of Agriculture (USDA). The guidelines focused on encouraging healthy eating patterns, on healthy eating habits over time, a variety of nutrient dense foods in moderation, limiting salt, sugar, and saturated fat calories, and low calorie beverages, and working in community to support healthy eating habits for all.

The top 8 takeaways from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC)

Same ol’ story – Intake of fruits and vegetables remains low while salt is still over consumed.  Dietary sodium recommendations stayed at 2300 mg per day while saturated fats increased to less than 10 percent of total calories per day from the previous recommendation of less than 7 percent.  Encourage fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seafood, and low fat dairy products.

Don’t hold back- 2015 DGAC used subtle but direct language regarding the state of health for average Americans. The frightening statics painted a picture of one or more preventable chronic diseases that could be changed drastically with individual behaviors regarding nutrition and physical activity.

New bad boy on the play ground – DGAC recommends no more than 10 percent of total calories from added dietary sugars in the form of sweetened beverages, refined grains, sweets and desserts. Low calorie sweeteners should be reduced while sugar sweetened drinks to be substituted by water. Food labels to include “added sugars” label to the Nutrition Facts Panel. The committee wants to place taxes on these items but already getting some resistance to this suggestion. 

The ugly truth – First time a complete chapter dedicated to sustainability. Three diets were recommended; Healthy U.S. style plan, Healthy Mediterranean style plan, and Healthy vegetarian plan since these have the lowest amount of effects on the environment and beneficial health outcomes.  Moderate amount of fish consumption is recommended since health benefits outweigh mercury and pollutants.  Coffee consumption in moderation (3-5 cups per day) is not shown to have long term health risks but the added calories in milk, sugar, and cream could minimize the effects of coffee.  Energy drinks and alcohol should not be consumed together and children should limit or avoid caffeine consumption.

Hello/goodbye- Removed the 300mg/day cholesterol recommendation and instead advising Americans to continue to monitor dietary cholesterol intake but not adding limits to the amounts. This is a controversial topic since other health organizations believe this is still an issue.

Grab the reigns- Placed the responsibility on consumers by encouraging home cooked meals, reduce screen time, reduce frequency of eating out, and educate on healthy lifestyle interventions.

Sip don’t chug- Moderate levels of alcohol (1 serving for women and 2 servings for men a day) are recommended). Disclaimer: some health benefits associated with drinking the recommended amount but if you do not drink then do NOT start drinking.  Higher alcohol consumption has increased associated risk of violence, drowning, injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes.

Paradigm shifts - Pushing programs and policies for health care - federal nutrition assistance programs, including Food Stamps (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), should be aligned with the Dietary Guidelines