From the Food Pyramid to MyPlate, the Dietary Guidelines have made a big impact on our eating habits. The Guidelines is a convenient tool for informing the public about healthy eating and it forms the basis for federally supported food and nutrition education programs. How did it all get started and where is it going?
To help promote healthy eating and prevention of chronic diseases, the US Health and Human Services (USHHS) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the first Dietary Guidelines in 1980 in a voluntary basis. The Guidelines reflected on findings that relate diet to health. It also provided guidance on limiting foods that are associated with chronic diseases. These Guidelines were later reviewed and updated in 1985 and 1990 with the inclusion of opinions from external experts.
The passage of the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act now mandates the USHHS and USDA to issue the Guidelines at least once every 5 years, starting with the 1995 edition. Over the past two decades these Guidelines have been updated to reflect emerging science and public health concerns.
The Guidelines are due to be updated in 2015. The Advisory Committee has issued their report as a support for that effort. The dietary recommendations have been relatively consistent over time -- rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products and alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains. The report also identifies three dietary patterns – the Healthy U.S.-style Pattern, the Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern, and the Healthy Vegetarian Pattern.
An encouraging sign is that beyond dietary recommendations, this report also addresses the social and environmental issues surrounding food choices. The report pointed out that dietary and other health-related lifestyle behaviors are “strongly influenced by personal, social, organizational, and environmental contexts and systems. Positive changes in individual diet and physical activity behaviors, and in the environmental contexts and systems that affect them, could substantially improve health outcomes.” Secondly, the report emphasizes the need for food sustainability to ensure food security for future generations.
There is no magic bullet to solve our diet and health problems. Acknowledging and drawing awareness to the issues is a first step forward, in fact a giant step towards holistic living.
Tune In to learn more about the Dietary Guidelines at Work.