For those of you who don’t know, every five years the U.S. government produces a document called the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is created through a collaboration between the US Department of Agriculture the Department of Health and Human Services. These guidelines are the basis for nutrition recommendations made to consumers, like MyPyramid and the current MyPlate system, as well as the basis for food and nutrition policy, like what is served for lunch in public schools. The last Dietary Guidelines were published in 2010, and the 2015 batch is due to be published late this year. Though the Guidelines are actually written by members of the two aforementioned agencies, they are informed by the research of an appointed panel of scientific experts, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The Committee is supposed to do a rigorous review of the current research in nutrition and write a report on their findings. The Guidelines themselves usually closely mirror the Committee’s recommendations.
I have to say that I take issue with some of the current Dietary Guidelines, and more so with what they do not say than what they say. And this makes sense after reading Marion Nestle’s Food Politics, which has made it clear to me how industry-biased the Guidelines have typically been, namely in favor of the meat, dairy, and sugar industries. I have been concerned that this year’s Guidelines would follow the same trend, but the DGAC’s report has me singing a happier tune! Here are some of their recommendations:
- A healthier diet is higher in plant-based foods, seafood, and low or non-fat dairy, lower in red and processed meat, and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains
- A diet higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal based foods is more health promoting and associated with less environmental impact than the typical U.S. diet
- Continue to replace saturated fats (from animal products) with unsaturated fats (from plants and fish)
- Reducing intake of added sugars below 10% of caloric intake will reduce one’s risk of chronic disease
- Make food labels easier to understand
- Soda taxes are definitely worth trying
- Change SNAP (food stamp) policies to promote consumption of healthier foods
YES, YES, AND EVEN MORE YES!! I’m trying not to get too excited, because the beef and sugar industries are already loading their weapons to fight back. I hope their influence on Congress doesn’t prevent these recommendations from becoming policy. But whether or not my wishes come to fruition, it is clear from these controversial and courageous recommendations that the tide is beginning to turn–public health might be starting to outweigh corporate interests a teensy little bit, and that is great cause to celebrate.