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What you should know about new dietary guidelines

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Jean Ince | County Extension Agent Staff Chair

The “New” Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released last week. Every five years, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services review the current dietary guidelines and determine what changes, if any, need to be made to help people improve their overall health through the foods they eat. The new guidelines focus on helping Americans reduce obesity and prevent chronic diseases; such as hypertension and Type 2 diabetes. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans use scientific evidence-based nutrition recommendations to help people make informed choices about their diet. Here are some suggestions from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Eating healthy is a lifelong lifestyle. Eating healthy over a person’s lifetime helps to prevent chronic disease like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. If you have recently found out you have one of these health concerns, start now by following a healthy eating pattern.
The Dietary Guidelines can help you make informed choices about what to eat and serve to you and your family. Some of the major suggestions are to increase fruits and vegetables in your diet, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Choose a variety of colors – looking for dark red and dark green vegetables to increase. Make half of your grain choices whole grains. Read food labels to determine if whole grains are listed as the first ingredient. If so, then that food is a good choice.
Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products to eat and cook with. Protein foods are important in the diet too. Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry, eggs, dried beans and peas, seafood, soy products, and nuts and seeds. Oils to use include canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean and sunflower.
Limit the amount of sugar in your diet to 10 percent of your daily calorie needs. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those found in milk and fruits. Healthy eating patterns should limit saturated and trans fats. Less than 10 percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fats include butter, whole milk, meats, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil. Replace saturated fats with canola or olive oil.
Adults and children ages 14 years and over should limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day. Younger children should consume less. Again check for sodium amounts on the nutrition facts label on food products.
Even small changes in the diet can help over the long run. Try to make small changes such as cutting back on the amount of sodas you drink over a week or a day. Start by making small changes and working toward a healthy eating pattern that works for you. Exercise is still very important. Physical activity on a regular basis is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health. Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, such as walking each week. Adults are also encouraged to add strength training exercises two to three times a week. Children ages six to 17 need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
Making small changes is something everyone can do. This includes the individual, at home, schools, workplaces, communities and even grocery stores. Changes can include adding new vegetables or increasing the number of vegetables served and eaten at home. Schools can help by making healthy food selections available for lunch and increasing physical activity. At work, look for healthy food options in vending machines or bring a healthy lunch and snacks. Workplaces can promote physical activity and other wellness programs for their employees.
In Howard County our communities are doing a great job by making fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season available at the farmers market and community gardens. There are numerous walking trails and opportunities to increase physical activity through organized programs and the parks system. Even grocery stores can make sure there are several healthy food options available to consumers and provide opportunities to try new products.
When you first look at the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you may not notice a lot of changes. And you may be saying I don’t see anything new. The changes are small, and the overall message has remained the same – develop a healthy eating pattern that you can live with that will help you improve your overall health.
For more information on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans check out the website www.choosemyplate.gov or contact the Howard County Cooperative Extension Service at 870-845-7517. You might want to be added to our mailing list to receive notification about new workshops and programs to help you improve your overall health. All of our programs are very affordable and they are research based! You can also visit our office located on the second floor of the Howard County Courthouse.
Recipe of the Week
Here is a recipe to get you started on a healthy eating pattern. This recipe uses lean meat, whole grains, and is lower in sodium. This recipe will be great on cold winter nights.
Chili Rice Skillet
½ pound lean ground beef or turkey
2 cups brown rice, cooked
½ cup onion, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, no salt added
½ cup low-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt to taste
In a large skillet, cook ground meat until brown. Drain fat. Add onion, chili powder, and tomatoes. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in rice. Melt shredded cheese on top. Serve with a green salad. Yields: 4 servings
Nutrition information per serving: 200 calories, 16 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fat, 123 milligrams sodium, 3.4 grams fiber