As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), I frequently hear questions like “how do I know what to eat?” Nutrition is a complex subject. Over the years guidelines for “good nutrition” have been written by various organizations. You are no doubt familiar with the Food Guide Pyramid, My Pyramid, and My Plate. These visual tools guide consumers to eat a balanced diet that consists of the 5 Food Groups; Fruit, Vegetables, Protein, Grains, and Dairy. Another set of guidelines, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans was established in 1980 by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. These guidelines are updated every 5 years and we are currently following the 2020 – 2025 update. If you were to search for the guidelines, you would come across the official 167-page document. Although the document has brightly colored pictures and lots of interesting graphs, it can be quite intimidating, even for a RDN.
Fortunately, there are several “overviews” out there that help break the guidelines down to a few manageable steps and strategies.
The four steps to increase diet quality are:
- Replace red and processed meats with plant sources of protein such as beans, peas, and nuts.
- Choose food with ingredients that you recognize as food ingredients.
- Reach for fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks.
- Cook meals from scratch when possible.
The four strategies to focus on for optimal health are:
- Choose a healthful eating pattern at each life stage.
- Select nutrient-dense food and use them to build an eating pattern that works for you. Nutrient-dense foods are those that have meaningful amounts of healthy components like vitamins, minerals, and fiber while staying low in components like saturated fat and added sugar.
- Choose nutrient-dense foods to meet your calorie needs and then stay within those needs – don’t eat excess calories.
- Limit saturated fats, added sugars, alcohol, and sodium.
In summary, this edition of the Dietary Guidelines presents overall guidance on choosing nutrient-dense foods and beverages in place of less healthy choices, and also discusses special nutrition considerations for individuals at each life stage.
For more information and detailed explanations please go to https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov
Debra Loder, RDN
Registered Dietitian / Dietary Manager
Wickenburg Community Hospital