“We are what we eat,” is true. Our overall health is impacted by what we eat. Food is how we get the vitamins, minerals, proteins and healthy fats our bodies need to function correctly.
A balanced diet is what helps us achieve that—now we are realistic enough to know that not everyone eats a perfectly balanced diet all the time. Not everyone likes kale, hummus and salmon. That is OK!
Eating a variety of foods—think color, type and texture—is what matters.
To help, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) recently published Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. The guidelines are updated every five years to provide science-based recommendations designed to foster healthy dietary patterns for Americans of all ages – from birth through older adults.
“Science tells us that good nutrition leads to better health outcomes, and the new dietary guidelines use the best available evidence to give Americans the information they need to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families,” said Alex Azar, HHS secretary.
The guide provides the most up-to-date evidence on dietary behaviors that promote health and may help prevent chronic disease with an approach for the entire lifespan of a person.
Key takeaways from the new edition include:
- Following a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.
- Customizing and enjoying nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.
- Focusing on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages from five food groups – vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and fortified soy alternatives, and proteins – and staying within calorie limits.
- Limiting foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limiting alcoholic beverages.
A healthy dietary pattern consists of nutrient-dense forms of foods and beverages across all food groups, in recommended amounts, and within calorie limits. The core elements that make up a healthy dietary pattern include:
- Vegetables of all types—dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables
- Fruits, especially whole fruit
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grain
- Dairy, including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, and/or lactose-free versions and fortified soy beverages and yogurt as alternatives
- Protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products
- Oils, including vegetable oils and oils in food, such as seafood and nuts
To support these takeaways, there are scientifically recommended limits on sugars, fat, sodium and alcohol that include:
- Limiting added sugars* to less than 10% of calories per day for ages 2 and older and to avoid added sugars for infants and toddlers.
- Limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of calories per day starting at age 2.
- Limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300mg per day (or even less if younger than 14).
- Limiting alcoholic beverages* (if consumed) to 2 drinks or less a day for men and 1 drink or less a day for women.
* The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 recommend limiting intakes of added sugars and alcoholic beverages, but do not include changes to quantitative recommendations from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for these two topics, because the new evidence reviewed since the 2015-2020 edition is not substantial enough to support changes to the quantitative recommendations for either added sugars or alcohol.
Good nutrition is about the pattern of eating, not just healthy choices here and there. Dietary Guidelines focuses on the combination of foods and beverages that make up an individual’s whole diet over time, and not single foods or eating occasions in isolation. Research shows that the ongoing pattern of an individual’s eating habits has the greatest impact on their health.
The new guidelines carry forward this emphasis on the importance of a healthy dietary pattern as a whole— rather than on individual nutrients or foods in isolation. What this means is that people consume them in various combinations over time—a dietary pattern—and these foods and beverages act synergistically to affect health.
Download Start Simple with MyPlate guide.
These are translated for everyone in the MyPlate Plan shows your food group targets – what and how much to eat within your calorie allowance. The plans are personalized for each person through the MyPlate app, where users can pick simple daily food goals, see real-time progress, and earn badges along the way.
This easy-to-use app can help you make positive changes to your diet and nutrition that can improve your overall health.
In the video below, we talk with Beth McGovern RN, director of marketing and clinical liaison at CareOne at Wall about the importance of good nutrition on our health and our recent volunteerism at Fulfill.