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Making Sense of the New Dietary Guidelines

What to know if you live with diabetes

Have you been hearing about the newly released Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 and wondering what the guidelines may mean for you?

Healthy eating patterns from  Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020
Healthy eating patterns from Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020

 A bit of background

The National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act of 1990 requires that the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) publish a nutrition report for the general public every five years with guidance based on the currently available science.

The in-depth report, completed by appointed nutrition experts, is known as the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) report. It becomes the basis for the Dietary Guidelines, which aim to help the public eat a healthy, nutritionally adequate diet as well as inform federal food, nutrition and health policies and programs.

Big changes in the new edition

Think of the changes from one edition to the next as an evolution. The latest edition, which was released on January 7, 2016, reflects new research published since the last iteration.

“Emphasis on dietary patterns was introduced in the 2010 edition, but for this review DGAC had more research from which to draw conclusions,” said Barbara Millen, DrPH, RD, 2015 chair of the DGAC. She added that research now shows links between a healthful eating pattern and preventing or delaying some health conditions.

DGAC developed three slightly varied dietary patterns for healthy eating: 1) Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern; 2) Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern; and 3) Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern. The best way to achieve a healthier eating pattern, the report concludes, is to slowly make small shifts towards choosing healthier foods and beverages.

Millen emphasized another key point. “As members of our communities, we all have a role in creating healthier environments for us all to live in.”

Dig into the details

The new guidelines promote five guiding principles to help make small shifts in your eating habits. See the table below for details, including some practical pointers you might want to consider in order to put the principle into action.

Guideline principle The meaning My suggestions for putting it into action
1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. At each age and stage choose foods and beverages that help get to or stay at a healthy weight and reduce the risk of preventable chronic diseases. -Don’t eat more calories than your body needs.-Select foods packed with nutrition.


-Limit foods high in calories and low in nutrition.

2. Focus on variety, nutrient density and amount.  To eat the right amount of calories and nutrients, choose foods packed with nutrients. Include a variety of foods from an array of food groups. -Eat a variety of vegetables. Think dark green, red and orange vegetables.-Enjoy legumes/beans, peas, corn and potatoes. They’re packed with nutrients and fiber.


– Select whole grains: brown rice, oatmeal, or try whole-wheat versions of foods like pasta, bread and cereal.


3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake.  To eat the right amount of calories and get the nutrients you need, cut back on foods and beverages that are high in added sugars, saturated fats and sodium. -Say no to sugar-sweetened beverages. Say yes to water.-Limit whole milk; drink fat-free.


-Limit cheese. Use reduced fat or part-skim.


-Eat red meat less often. Choose lean cuts and eat no more than 3 to 4 ounces (cooked).


-Eat fewer prepared foods and restaurant meals.


4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.  Take a slow, steady approach to eat more foods packed with nutrition. Don’t give up your favorite foods and ones you enjoy at celebrations. -Think about your current eating habits and food choices. Identify a few easy-to-make changes.-Enjoy small portions of your favorite foods and ones you enjoy at special occasions.


5. Support Healthy Eating Patterns for all.  To make it easier for everyone to eat healthier, do your part to help create healthier environments in your community. -Bring healthier foods to school and community events. Encourage others to do so.-Advocate to make healthier foods and walking trails available.


-Be a healthy role model to the young people in your life.


Diabetes and the Dietary Guidelines

Do these guidelines apply to you, and do you need to adjust your eating plan? To start, you should consult with your diabetes healthcare team before making any changes.

Good news! The Dietary Guidelines are in sync with the American Diabetes Association (the Association) nutrition recommendations. “People with diabetes can turn to the Dietary Guidelines for advice on healthy eating to achieve general good health and optimal nutrition,” said Maggie Powers, PhD, RD, CDE, 2016 president of Health Care & Education for the Association.

Ready to tweak your eating habits? First, take an honest look at your current eating habits and food choices. Then bite off a couple of easy-to-achieve actions to eat just a wee bit healthier. Then, repeat.

Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE*, is the author of several best-selling books published by the American Diabetes Association, including Eat Out Eat Well – The Guide to Eating Healthy in Any Restaurant  and Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy. She’s a frequent contributor to Diabetic Living magazine. Warshaw is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

© 2016 The DX: The Diabetes Experience


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