Dietary Guidelines for Americans
The goal of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) is to provide nutrition guidance that can improve the health of Americans by helping people choose healthy and enjoyable foods and beverages. According to the 2020-2025 DGAs, a healthy diet emphasizes:
- Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products
- A variety of protein foods like seafood, lean meats and nuts
- Food that is low in saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars
- A diet that stays within your daily caloric needs
The 2020-2025 DGAs also include recommendations related to increased fiber intake, as well as the use of low-calorie sweeteners to manage weight in adult populations. Replacing added sugars with low- and no-calorie sweeteners may reduce calorie intake in the short-term and aid in weight management.
Americans are making efforts to manage their weight through lifestyle changes. The Harris Poll conducted an online consumer survey for the Calorie Control Council of over 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older to learn what changes in lifestyle people have made to achieve their weight loss goals. The survey found that the top five changes made were: 57% consume more water, 55% exercise and be more active, 47% eat smaller portions, 28% use reduced-sugar or sugar free products and 27% said they would weigh themselves more often.
The American’s polled also state having a more positive attitude toward food, health, and dieting. According to a 2021 International Foot Information Council (IFIC) Survey on Food and Health more people would rather count calories than follow trendy diets. Similarly, while the top motivator for dieting remains losing weight, fewer people are focused on this reason than prior years. The number of people dieting to improve physical appearance also dropped.
The most important thing is to focus on the overall quality of your diet, rather than a single nutrient or food. Try to include more nutrient-dense foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, and lean proteins. Limit foods that offer lots of calories but little nutritional value. The USDA, along with other respected organizations, provide consumers with tools and eating patterns that may help them to achieve the goals set forth in the DGAs.
USDA’s MyPlate can help you identify what and how much to eat from the different food groups while staying within your recommended calorie allowance.
Mediterranean-Style Meal Planning
“Mediterranean diet” is a generic term based on the traditional eating habits in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. There are at least 16 countries that border the Mediterranean, and so there is not one standard diet from this region. Eating styles from among these countries and even among regions within each country because of differences in culture, ethnic background, religion, economy, geography, and agricultural production. However, there are some common factors:
- Olive oil as a primary fat source
- Dairy products, eggs, fish and poultry in low to moderate amounts
- Fish and poultry are more common than red meat in this diet
- Centers on minimally processed, plant-based foods
- Wine may be consumed in low to moderate amounts, usually with meals
- Fruit is a common dessert instead of sweets
Plant -Forward Meal Planning
Plant-based or plant-forward eating patterns focus on foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. It doesn’t mean that you are vegetarian or vegan and never eat meat or dairy. Rather, you are proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources.
Diabetic Friendly Meal Planning
While there is no specific “diabetes diet,” the American Diabetes Association (ADA) does provide guidelines for creating a healthy meal that can help patients with managing their diabetes. Many different eating patterns can help you manage your diabetes – from Mediterranean to low-carbohydrate, to vegetarian. Whatever you choose, be sure to include lots of non-starchy vegetables, minimize added sugar and refine grains and choose whole, minimally processed foods. Keep in mind that a diabetic meal plan can fit into many different dietary patterns. There is also no one-size-fits-all. Talk to your doctor and get a referral o a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who can help you figure out what eating plan makes the most sense for you and your treatment goals. Just because you follow a diabetic meal plan does not mean you need to give up all the foods you love.
Stevia in Your Tool Box
For people who miss having sweet desserts and drinks, stevia sweeteners can provide an alternative to sugar. A natural, zero-calorie sweetener, stevia can offer sweetness without the excess sugar and calories. Furthermore, stevia is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, which means you only need a little to create the same level of sweetness.
Last but not least – physical activity. Strive to get up and get moving! Regular activity is important for good overall health.