Integrative Nutrition Blog

What You Should Know About the New U.S. Dietary Guidelines

January 12, 2016

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The 2015-2020 dietary guidelines are in! Every 5 years, the U.S. government updates its official dietary guidelines with a full report of recommendations based on the latest scientific and medical knowledge.

These guidelines are not only published as a source of public information, but are also designed for medical professionals, policymakers, educators, the media, and state and local governments. They provide the basis for everything from individual and community medical advice to school food programs, research funding, and public health policy.

Yes, it’s a big deal!

We’re thrilled to lend our voice to the conversation as we celebrate Health Coach Week and recognize the many contributions that Health Coaches have made toward global wellness.

Below we’ll provide some of the biggest takeaways from the new guidelines that you can apply to your diet, but first we’d like to point out a few new and interesting elements included in the latest report.

1. The Guidelines reference recommended “healthy eating patterns” rather than specific food groups, making this an “adaptable framework.”

“Previous editions of the Dietary Guidelines focused primarily on individual dietary components such as food groups and nutrients. However, people do not eat food groups and nutrients in isolation but rather in combination, and the totality of the diet forms an overall eating pattern. The components of the eating pattern can have interactive and potentially cumulative effects on health. These patterns can be tailored to an individual’s personal preferences, enabling Americans to choose the diet that is right for them… These Guidelines also embody the idea that a healthy eating pattern is not a rigid prescription, but rather, an adaptable framework in which individuals can enjoy foods that meet their personal, cultural, and traditional preferences and fit within their budget.”

This new version takes on a more holistic and individual-based approach than the Guidelines in the past, and it reminds us of one of the cornerstone concepts of the Health Coach Training Program: Bio-individuality. There is no single approach that works for everyone, rather, individuals benefit from tuning in to how their unique bodies respond to various foods. As long as you’re consuming wholesome ingredients, the possibilities are endless and there is no need for stringency.

We just love when research and policy catches up to what the Integrative Nutrition community has encouraged for years!

2. The new Guidelines recognize that the vast majority of people were not meeting previous dietary recommendations, and thus include an entire chapter on the importance of collaborative action to create “a new paradigm” where healthy eating becomes normality in schools, workplaces, and communities, as well as homes.

More than ever, we are being asked to step up and share in the responsibility of creating collective health, something Health Coaches have been gladly doing for many years. Whether it’s inspiring friends and family, working with clients, creating school food programs, publishing books, or influencing public policy, Health Coaches are already integrated in a wide variety of wellness arenas and there is no doubt that the professional possibilities for such roles will only expand – and become more in demand - as the new Guidelines become implemented.

So let’s get to the nitty gritty, here are some of the biggest dietary takeaways of the new Guidelines:

  1. A new limit on sugar is announced. Consumption of the sweet stuff should be limited to 10% of daily caloric intake, which is about 50 grams based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
  2. Specific restrictions on cholesterol have been removed, with the advice to still limit consumption of saturated fats.
  3. Protein-rich foods such as seafood, lean meat, poultry, and beans are recommended, but no restrictions are made regarding processed meats despite the World Health Organization’s recent findings that they may cause cancer.
  4. Lots of veggies and fruit! 2.5 cups are recommended every day, ideally including a wide variety of types, colors, textures, and flavors.
  5. Moderate alcohol and coffee are considered acceptable for daily consumption.
  6. A limit on sodium is set at 2,300 milligrams, which is about 1 teaspoon. per day.
  7. Get moving! The guidelines reference the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines, placing daily movement as an important supportive element to overall health.

While the new dietary guidelines included a few things we find puzzling, such as the inclusion of soy as a recommended source of vegetarian protein despite inconclusive research of its health benefits, and the omission of restriction on processed foods and meats, overall this comes as good news and a step in the right direction.

It’s certainly helpful to know that public health policy is catching up to the nuances of wellness that have been practiced by Health Coaches and other holistic practitioners all along.

Just keep in mind that these are guidelines after all and serve to provide an example and foundation of healthy eating, not as ultimate rules we all need to live by! The guidelines are continually changing as new information comes to light, and until the next wave of updates come along, we’ll continue to raise awareness about food and wellness practices that truly elevate health and happiness for all.

What do you think of the new Dietary Guidelines? Share your thoughts in the comments so we can keep this important conversation going!

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