Every five years the US dietary guidelines are revised. These guidelines influence everything from school lunch menus, what’s served in prisons to how food labels are designed. Dietitians guide their clients by referencing these guidelines. Furthermore, manufacturers and restaurants feel the pressure about what they put in their food especially when the guidelines are released.
The 2015 guidelines were just announced earlier this month and unlike the food pyramid posters most of us were used to seeing growing up or the “My Plate” icon in our kid’s cafeteria, these new guidelines showcase and recommend a “healthy eating pattern” with three healthy diets with limited sugar and saturated fat, less salt and more vegetable and whole grains.
This version of the guidelines is supposed to be more “user-friendly” and easier to follow and stick with. Specifically, the 2015 guidelines outlines three different types of diets at the 2,000-calorie level: the healthy American diet, Mediterranean diet and vegetarian diet. They are designed to be mixed and matched if you want as well and provide ideas on what you can have for each diet, making it more approachable for anyone. These dietary models are essential because we need to be able to see how many servings of this group and that group we need and we also need to understand what a plate should really look like. Unlike previous guidelines which also mentioned these three specific diets, this year’s guidelines focus on the totality of the diets and not just super foods but more of a super diet concept.
So what do the diets look like?
The healthy American diet is based on what people in the United States typically consume, while including nutrient-dense forms of these foods and appropriate portion sizes. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, people following the healthy American eating pattern should consume 2.5 cups of vegetables a day, 2 cups of fruit, 6 ounces of grain, 3 cups of dairy and 5.5 ounces of protein. This, of course, isn’t going to be what everyone eats. For example, if you were on the keto diet, it wouldn’t be possible. The keto diet is fascinating, as is the relationship between yoga and keto.
Compared with the healthy American diet, the Mediterranean diet is heavy on protein and fruits and lighter on dairy. The USDA guidelines recommend people who consume 2,000 calories a day get 6.5 ounces of protein, 2.5 cups of fruit and 2 cups of dairy, 2.5 cups of vegetables and 6 ounces of grain per day.
The vegetarian diet has lower levels of protein than the other two diets. The recommendation is 3.5 ounces a day for a 2,000-calorie diet. To replace meat, this diet includes more nuts, seeds, tofu and other soy products — 7 ounces a week of nuts and seeds and 8 ounces of soy, compared with 4 ounces of nuts and seeds and 0.5 ounces of soy in the other two diets
The vegetarian diet also stands out for recommending more whole grain — 6.5 ounces a day compared with 6 ounces in the American and Mediterranean diet. The diet also recommends 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day.
It’s recommended that people use the dietary patterns in the guidelines as a starting place to get more information on the types of diets. Then, it’s a good idea to visit the USDA My Plate site (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/) to explore the most effective ways to satisfy the recommendations for different food groups within the diets
If you still have questions about your family’s diet, talking with a registered dietitian or nutritionist can help make sure you follow a diet in the healthiest way possible. It’s important to note that many insurance plans cover consultation visits with dietitians and nutritionists.