By Jennifer “Neily” Neily, MS, RDN, FAND~
Although this may not be the most fascinating thing you read today, it’s essential for good health.
It’s well-known that dietary intake affects our health. Sixty percent of adults have one or more diet-related chronic diseases: heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. However, it’s possible to prevent and manage these conditions with the right nutrition.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) is issued every 5 years with the intent to encourage Americans to eat well.
Based on a rigorous review of scientific literature, the DGA translates nutrition data into food recommendations. It also forms the basis for federal nutrition policy.
Since nutritional needs vary over our lifespans, the most recent guidelines provide recommendations for all life stages.
The four major guidelines of the DGA are:
The six core food elements include:
The DGA recommends these six groups make up 85% of our food intake. The remaining 15% can be from foods and beverages higher in added sugar, saturated fats, and sodium — the fun foods we all enjoy!
Are the DGA Dietary Guidelines making Americans unhealthy?
It’s been argued that over the past 40 years Americans have become heavier and less healthy. The sad truth is, consuming the DGA’s recommended dietary pattern is not the norm.
The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) is a score calculated from national food surveys. It measures how closely our food and beverage choices align with the DGA. A top score is 100, but our nation’s average score is only 59. On a brighter note, older adults (over age 60) have a slightly better diet quality with an average score of 63.
Even as the science linking food and health has grown stronger, our Healthy Eating Index has shown no improvement.
The three key l dietary principles helping us decide what to eat and drink include:
The DGA aligns with the top three rated eating plans I’ve focused on recently: Mediterranean, DASH, and Flexitarian.
Following the DGA, Mediterranean, DASH, or Flexitarian diets can improve our Healthy Eating Index scores. It’s never too late — or too early.
What is one thing you will do to improve your score?