The USDA has released a belated gift for everyone: its nutrition guidelines for 2020-2025. The USDA, or the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, are responsible for making food guidelines for all Americans. New guidelines appear every five years. So what exactly does the USDA mean we should be eating?
The guidelines cover many aspects of food and nutrition, but along with the report, the authors created a helpful little video to break it down. Here are the four main points:
- Follow a healthy diet at every stage of life.
- Customize and enjoy the selection of nutritious food and drink options to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions and budget considerations.
- Focus on meeting the needs of food groups with nutrient-rich foods and beverages, and stick to calorie limits.
- Limit foods and beverages that are contained in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.
This is the fourth point that has been criticized by numerous interested parties: In the summer, the USDA advisory panel said the new guidelines should include an even greater reduction in the number of alcoholic beverages consumed daily, but the department did not take their advice.
These guidelines are the first to consider age when suggesting diet. A big change here affects young children and possible allergies. The guidelines recommend introducing things like eggs and peanut-containing foods along with other foods early on. This is a change from the old wisdom that parents should hold off the introduction of peanuts until their children are a little older. FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) issued a statement on the new proposals: "FARE is pleased to include more comprehensive nutritional guidelines for the early introduction of eggs and peanuts for infants and young children."
Even so, the guidelines mention that babies with severe eczema or egg allergies – conditions that increase the risk of peanut allergy – should be given peanut-containing foods as early as four months. However, families should also consider reaching out to their doctor for advice. These are guidelines only, and while they are designed to help everyone, they are not family specific.
A focus on babies
With the new guidelines, which are specifically aimed at infants, there are new guidelines.
- No added sugar
- Breast milk (or iron-fortified formula) for the first six months
- Supplement with vitamin D (not found in breast milk)
The guidelines set out breast milk and say, "Feeding only breast milk is one of the best ways to get a child on a lifelong healthy diet." It is recognized that not all babies have access to breast milk, either because they are adopted or because their mothers do not or cannot produce milk. The guidelines suggest a good iron-fortified formula or using an accredited breast milk bank.
The teenage years
The 2020-2025 Guldines highlight the problem of childhood obesity and the fact that many children are given much more sugar, saturated fat, and sodium than they need. The guidelines support physical activity and the formation of good eating habits at a young age. This is reflected in the new focus on life phases.
Should you skip the alcohol?
The guidelines on alcohol and sugar have not changed. This despite the suggestions of the scientific community, including an expert group, to restrict both. The guidelines for salt have also remained the same. One drink per day is currently suggested for women and two for men. Back in July, the New York Times reported what the report's scientific panel was in favor of. Then it was proposed to reduce alcohol consumption to a single drink a day, if not less. Experts also wanted the daily consumption of added sugars to be reduced from 10% to 6%.
As to why the council has not changed, the guideline drafters indicated that insufficient evidence has been presented in the past five years to support the panel's more stringent recommendations. Critics have accused the USDA of bowing to the food and alcohol lobbies, an indictment that both the USDA and HHS have denied.
Even so, the core proposals, less than 10% of calories from added sugar and less than 10% of calories from saturated fat, 2,300 mg sodium per day and the alcohol directive, have not changed since 2015.
Make every bite count
The theme of the guidelines is "Every Bite Counts" and encourages people to reach for whole, nutritious foods. Put a little less, the suggestion is: "Focus on nutrient-rich foods and drinks, limit the levels of added sugars, saturated fats and sodium, and stick to the calorie limits." The DGA also suggests a breakdown of 85:15, so 85% of the calories come from whole foods and 15% of the calories come from sugar and saturated fats. For reference, try following these three principles outlined in the guidelines:
- Mainly, meet your nutritional needs through nutritious foods and beverages.
- Choose from a variety of options from each food group.
- Pay attention to the portion size.
If that works?
Do Americans Follow Dietary Recommendations? Generally less than they should. The majority of Americans are overweight.
There's something called a healthy eating index that measures how well Americans are following food guidelines. A perfect score is 100; According to the USDA, the average score for Americans is 59. The USDA stated on its website that the score has improved somewhat over the past 10 years, but people have plenty of room for improvement. "
Room for improvement
Despite the controversy surrounding alcohol and added sugars, paying attention to what and how much you eat is probably good advice. A study published in Obesity found that of over 7,000 people, nearly a third had gained weight during the pandemic. They attributed this to stress and a lack of physical activity.