Using the 2015 Dietary Guidelines to Achieve a Healthy Future
Today, we are at the crossroads of taking the many learnings from the 2015 DGAC scientific report and developing important direction for the final Dietary Guidelines to help Americans build healthier lives. Health and nutrition professionals, consumer advocates, government officials and other stakeholders have a significant opportunity before them.
One lesson we learned from the past is that elimination of “high risk” nutrients is not the only, or perhaps not even the best, path to health for all Americans. A nutrient-dense dietary pattern can also help mitigate the risk of chronic disease. To this point, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently published its policy statement on Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools, which reinforces the benefits of a health-promoting dietary pattern.1
So how do we reach the end goal of making nutrient-dense dietary patterns the foundation of our healthy eating principles? We know that individuals build their own dietary patterns over time, based on their eating habits, preferences, culture and history. Starting from this perspective, the AAP advocates that families and their children, in particular, focus first on nutrient-dense foods that they like within each food group. These are their foundation foods. People should first assess what a food has to offer; then consider the amount of nutrients to limit it may contribute. Over time, a process of simple swaps (substituting higher-nutrient, yet similar products in every dietary subgroup) can incrementally build a health-promoting personal dietary pattern.2 This strategy helps build healthier eating patterns within the constructs of personal and cultural preferences.
Taking a nutrient-dense approach means that every food choice can have a beneficial impact. Yogurt is a good example. A consumer favorite but one that is not frequently eaten by most Americans, yogurt is enjoyed by people of all ages, from infants to seniors, precisely because of its taste, value and convenience: The trinity of food choice. At the same time, it is a relatively low-cost, low-calorie, nutrient-dense product that has been shown to have broad impact on diet quality.3,4 Building nutrient-dense dietary patterns puts a focus on choosing foods that offer a depth of nutrients for fewer calories. In this case, yogurt is a source of calcium and potassium, and many yogurts contain Vitamin D, which together contribute three of the four key nutrients of concern for all age groups. Yogurt also serves as a good source of protein and provides nutrients such as vitamins B-6 and B-12, phosphorus and zinc.
How can consumers apply this nutrient-dense strategy to their daily diets? Make high nutrient choices a mainstay in the diet. Adding fruit, nuts or grains to yogurt, or serving it as a dip for vegetables, can further enhance its dietary pattern power. Another opportunity would be to revise some classic sandwiches or mixed dishes to be more nutrient-dense.
The AAP policy statement concludes that a positive emphasis on nutritional value, variety, appropriate portion and encouragement for a steady improvement in quality would be a more effective approach for improving nutrition and health than advocating for the elimination of a few specific nutrients. With the DGA comment period in full swing, let’s hope nutrition and healthcare experts everywhere reinforce the importance of developing guidelines that deliver practical, actionable nutrition advice that will help build a healthier America.
Robert Murray, MD
Professor of Nutrition
Department of Human Sciences
College of Education & Human Ecology
The Ohio State University One Yogurt Every Day Nutrition Advisor
This year’s update of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans brings a renewed focus to the intersection of food and public health. As a follow up to the highly anticipated release of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee scientific report,The Ohio State University Food Innovation Center and Glenn School of Public Affairs and National Geographic will hold a Dietary Guidelines Summit on May 21, 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. ET, in Washington, D.C. The summit will convene nationally recognized experts in the fields of nutrition, health and public policy who understand the importance of making these guidelines meaningful and actionable for consumers across the country.
The summit is free to attend and open to the public. Register now at dgasummit.com.
Dannon is pleased to announce its partnership with the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP). As a member of its National Strategic Partners network, Dannon will support CNPP’s critical nutrition education efforts around the Dietary Guidelines.
This month, CNPP has been celebrating National Nutrition Month®. Throughout the month of March, MyPlate has been spotlighting healthy eating and physical activity at school, work, home and throughout the community. For more information, visit MyPlate’s National Nutrition Month page and check it out on social media (MyPlate Facebook, @MyPlate on Twitter, and MyPlate Recipes on Pinterest ).