What the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 Mean for You
The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) was released earlier this year, and there’s a lot to be excited about, from a personalized approach to eating that considers individual characteristics, to customized eating for different stages of life.
In honor of National Nutrition Month—and because we know how important proper nutrition is when it comes to the aging process—we’re diving into what the new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines mean for you. We’ll also offer suggestions for how to apply them to your daily life.
What are the Dietary Guidelines for Americans?
Every five years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture publish the DGA. The ultimate goal of the DGA is to create a dietary framework to help all Americans follow a healthy eating pattern at every stage of life.
What are the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans?
The latest version of the DGA, called Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, was informed by a comprehensive scientific report that screened over 270,000 scientific articles on diet and health. The new DGA offers guidance to different demographics of people throughout their various life stages, takes culture and budget into consideration, provides new recommendations on alcohol consumption, and focuses on eating nutrient-rich foods. Let’s break these guidelines down further.
1. Follow a healthy dietary pattern throughout your entire life
This may sound obvious, but it was a novel approach for the DGA to recommend specific dietary guidelines for different stages in one’s life. The idea is that as you age, your daily caloric intake should change depending on a number of factors, including your age, sex, height, weight, level of physical activity, and pregnancy status. For most Americans, calorie intake should decrease as they get older due to reductions in basal metabolic rate.
2. Customize your diet to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budget
Rather than recommending one style of eating, the DGA provides outlines for healthy U.S., Mediterannean, and vegetarian diets in order to meet a larger variety of personal & cultural preferences and household budgets. They advise starting with the foods you already enjoy and adapting them to meet your cultural traditions and budget. One way they recommend doing this is by replacing store-bought sauces typically high in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium with herbs and spices.
3. Focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits
Counting calories has its benefits. If you’re inconsistent with your meal size or you like to snack throughout the day, tracking your caloric intake can help you avoid overeating. However, research has shown that calorie counting can quickly take center stage in a person’s mind, overshadowing the importance of the quality of the calories consumed. Focusing on quality instead of quantity when it comes to calories is a better way to support your overall health.
4. Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages
The 2020-2025 DGA stresses the importance of limiting added sugars and swapping processed foods for single-ingredient whole foods. Some examples they give include replacing store-bought guacamole with sliced avocado and jarred salsa with fresh pico de gallo.
The DGA also updated their daily alcohol consumption recommendation from two drinks or fewer per day to one drink or fewer per day for adult men due to emerging evidence around the risks associated with regular alcohol consumption, as well as the high amount of sugar present in most alcoholic beverages. Their recommendations for adult women remain at one or fewer drinks per day.
How can I apply the new Dietary Guidelines in my life?
Given that nearly 75% of American adults are overweight or obese, finding a weight-stabilizing, healthy diet is a priority for many of us. Here are a few of our suggestions for incorporating the DGA into your daily life.
1. Eat a variety of whole foods
According to the DGA, most Americans don’t eat enough whole foods. Whole foods are unprocessed foods that usually contain just one ingredient. They are known for containing many essential vitamins & nutrients and supporting the immune system. Examples of whole foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. An easy way to incorporate more whole foods into your diet is to find a few simple recipes that replace heavier alternatives. For example, replace your side dish of mac and cheese with roasted broccoli: tossed with olive oil and salt, then roasted, it is a scrumptious way to add nutrition and fiber to your diet. Depend on drive-through fast food snacks while on the go? Pack a bag of raw nuts or a piece of fruit instead. With a little practice and imagination, you can gradually integrate more whole foods into your daily meals.
2. Eat intuitively
There’s a reason the DGA doesn’t endorse “fad diets”: many of these diets, such as the South Beach and Atkins diets, are restrictive, making them very difficult to follow. They also have not been proven to be healthy or effective over a long time frame. In lieu of dieting, we recommend following an intuitive eating pattern in which you eat certain foods when your body craves them. By doing so, you’re more likely to fill up on a variety of foods rather than binging on just one or two types. Intuitive eating can also help you listen to and trust your body. (If you try intuitive eating, be sure to also consider the quality of your calories: engineered foods can fool our body into craving sugary and salty items that should only be consumed in small amounts.)
3. Limit your sugar intake
Sugar has been linked to type 2 diabetes, obesity, and brain dysfunction. If this doesn’t make you think twice about that afternoon soda, consider that sugar may also age your skin faster. The new DGA recommends examining the major sources of added sugars in your dietary pattern, of which the top three for most Americans are 1) sugary beverages; 2) desserts and candy; and 3) sweeteners.
Try replacing these added sugars with whole foods that contain natural sugars, such as fruit. By satisfying your sugar craving with fruits, you’ll also consume more nutrients and fiber, which helps the natural sugars digest more slowly in your body, helping to prevent insulin levels from spiking. If you must sweeten your coffee or tea, try using a low-glycemic sweetener, such as agave, instead of refined sugar.
4. Ditch deep frying and other fat-heavy cooking methods and recipes
By limiting the amount of fat or oil used in cooking, you can quickly reduce your overall caloric intake. Choose cooking methods that reduce the need for oils, such as roasting, grilling, boiling, and steaming; these will allow you to consume the foods you enjoy with fewer added calories. Making mashed potatoes? Cut back on the butter, adding broth instead to help create a silky texture. Having pasta? Choose a bright tomato-based sauce instead of a creamy Alfredo sauce.
Want to improve your shape? Dr. Conway can help.
Diet is key to good health, but it can’t change where you genetically store fat, or help with sagging skin issues. If you have stubborn fat or extra skin left over from pregnancy or a recent weight loss, Dr. Donald Conway can help you slim down with a tummy tuck or post-weight loss body lifting procedures. To make an appointment to discuss your aesthetic goals, contact us online or call (828) 210-9333.