Snapshots of the American Diet

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has held five public meetings over the past year. At each meeting, subcommittees present updates on their research. (You can get all the details here.)

A subcommittee called the Data Analysis and Food Pattern Modeling Cross-Cutting Working Group has presented some interesting snapshots of the American diet. Although the Advisory Committee’s report isn’t ready yet, this information can help you come up with relevant topics for nutrition and health education. Here are two examples:

Snacking:

  • Most Americans snack — in fact, 93% of us do, usually 2-3 times/day.
  • Snacks provide 22-23% of our total calories.
  • Late-night snacking often involves added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats.
  • Every eating occasion is a chance to make nutrient-dense food choices. Shifts in childhood and adulthood snacks could help people meet food group and nutrient recommendations.
  • Teaching ideas:
    • Fruits and vegetables make great snacks. They’re unprocessed and lower in calories, added sugar, sodium, and fat. For tips, check out our Snack Smart poster and color handout download.
    • Portion control can make snacks healthier. Look at 100 calorie snack portions and plan to keep some on hand for easy access. See our 100 Calorie Snacks handout download.
    • Consider snacks as mini-meals, not treats. MyPlate can help people visualize this.

Burgers & sandwiches: This food category causes many Americans problems. Here’s how —

  • Most Americans eat too many calories from solid fats.
    • The main sources of solid fats include burgers & sandwiches and desserts & sweet snacks.
  • Most Americans consume too much sodium.
    • The category of burgers and sandwiches is the largest contributor to sodium intake.
  • Teaching ideas: We obviously need to help people choose alternatives to high-fat burgers and sandwiches!
    • Salad is the first thing that comes to mind:
    • Encourage folks to plan their meals, make a shopping list, and eat more meals at home. Our Menu Planning tools are a great place to start.
    • Sandwiches don’t have to be high in fat and sodium. Show clients how to build a healthier sandwich with lean meats and lots of veggies.

If you’ve signed up to get updates about the 2020 Dietary Guidelines, you should have received an email letting you know that the fifth meeting of the Advisory Committee has taken place and you have until June 1, 2020 to submit comments (revised on April 9, 2020).

NOTE:

The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s schedule has been extended by one month, in consideration of new demands on Committee members’ schedules due to COVID-19. USDA and HHS continue to plan for the release of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the end of the year.

To stay connected and receive updates as the Committee’s work progresses, please check DietaryGuidelines.gov.

Stick to the Message on Added Sugar

As we await the release of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines, this is a good time to review key parts of the 2015 guidelines that aren’t likely to change much. One of these topics is added sugar.

Specific sugar intake recommendations were included in the Dietary Guidelines for the first time in 2015 (whereas in years earlier they only recommended avoiding consuming too much sugar or moderate intake of sugar). The message: consume no more than 10% of daily calories from added sugar.

Sugar continues to be a hot issue. When the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee last met on March 12-13 (source), subcommittees presented their DRAFT conclusion statements. Here are a few related to added sugars:

  • Mean intakes of added sugar have significantly decreased over time, but remain high across age, sex, race-ethnic and income.
  • There is a notable increase in the intake of added sugars when 1-year-olds are compared with babies less than 12 months of age.
  • Nearly 70% of added sugars come from five food categories: sweetened beverages, desserts & sweet snacks, coffee & tea (with their additions), candy & sugars, and breakfast cereals & bars.
  • A large percentage of daily sugar intake comes from beverage consumption: 30% for young children, 50% for adolescents, and 60% for adults.
  • The top beverage sources of added sugars: regular soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports/energy drinks, smoothies, and coffee and tea with added sugars.

So what messages about sugar do we need to keep sharing?

  1. Clear up sugar confusion. Consumers may not get it — ‘Doesn’t milk have sugar?! Fruit has sugar!’ But when it comes to sugar, ‘added’ is the key word. Don’t worry about the naturally occurring sugar in REAL food when there’s so much added sugar in PROCESSED food.
  2. The new Nutrition Facts label is key! We no longer have to arm our clients with long lists of ingredients that actually mean sugar. Added sugar is now on the label – we just need to remind folks to look for it. See our New Food Label materials for ideas on how to do this.
  3. To understand the food label, you have to understand Sugar Math. Teach clients and students how to get from “10% of daily calories” to the grams of sugar shown on the new Nutrition Facts panel.
  4. Beverages matter. Choosing water and sugar-free drinks can make a big difference in your sugar intake. We have lots of materials on this — a favorite being Are You Drinking Candy?
  5. Switch to fruit for dessert. This is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth without a lot of sugar. We even have a Fruit Tooth Dessert Cookbook!
  6. Start early for a lifelong low sugar habit. We want to be raising sugar-free kids who eat real food. Parents, grandparents, and childcare providers need our help. Check out our 0 to 5 Baby and Toddler Nutrition PowerPoint show.
  7. There’s no room for added sugar with MyPlate! Use resources from ChooseMyPlate.gov or see all the materials we have.

 

Are You Ready for the New Dietary Guidelines?

Earlier this month, the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee met for the fifth and final time before they draft the Scientific Report that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will use to craft the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines.

The Advisory Committee first met nearly a year ago to begin reviewing the body of scientific evidence on nutrition and health from birth into older adulthood. All meetings have been open to the public and more than 40,000 public comments have been submitted to the Committee over the past year.

The draft of the Committee’s Scientific Report is scheduled to be discussed in a webinar (viewable by the public) on May 11, 2020. After this, the Committee has until the end of May to deliver the final report to USDA and HHS.

The final step in this multi-year process? USDA and HHS will use the Scientific Report to develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines.

Why do we need the Dietary Guidelines and why should we be ready to teach them? Here are just a few reasons taken from a handy infographic you can find here:

  • It’s no surprise that Americans just don’t eat right. The Healthy Eating Index Score grades us on how well we align our  food choices with the Dietary Guidelines. For Americans, the average score is 59, on a scale of 0 to 100! We need to do what we can to change this.
  • Eight out of ten Americans say diet advice is confusing — also not a surprise.
  • Billions of dollars are spent every year to treat diet-related health conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
  • In a world of fad diets and celebrities giving medical advice, one thing is certain – the Dietary Guidelines are based on science.

What can you be doing? While waiting for the new Dietary Guidelines to come out, we have some recommendations for you:

  • Follow along here or at least subscribe here to get updates on the process and find out when the new Dietary Guidelines are released.
  • Take time now to review the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, because in most cases the new guidelines will  build on the previous edition. To give you a glimpse of what’s to come, consider the working groups of the Advisory Committee:
    • Dietary Patterns
    • Pregnancy and Lactation
    • Birth to 24 Months
    • Beverages and Added Sugars
    • Dietary Fats and Seafood
    • Frequency of Eating
  • If you work with pregnant women, parents, or children under two years of age, get ready to see something new. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines will for the first time provide guidance for women who are pregnant, as well as infants and toddlers from birth to 24 months.

Take time now to plan how YOU will incorporate the new Dietary Guidelines into your classes, counseling sessions, social media, and more. Take a look at our 12 Lessons Programs. These comprehensive wellness and weight management programs, based on the Dietary Guidelines, make health and nutrition education fun and easy. We keep them up to date, too. When the new Dietary Guidelines are released, we’ll update the digital files and send them to you via email.

Fiber and Nutrient Density

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans has a great definition for nutrient dense foods, which is emphasized as a “term to know.”

Nutrient Dense—A characteristic of foods and beverages that provide vitamins, minerals, and other substances that contribute to adequate nutrient intakes or may have positive health effects, with little or no solid fats and added sugars, refined starches, and sodium. Ideally, these foods and beverages also are in forms that retain naturally occurring components, such as dietary fiber. All vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry—when prepared with little or no added solid fats, sugars, refined starches, and sodium—are nutrient-dense foods. These foods contribute to meeting food group recommendations within calorie and sodium limits. The term “nutrient dense” indicates the nutrients and other beneficial substances in a food have not been “diluted” by the addition of calories from added solid fats, sugars, or refined starches, or by the solid fats naturally present in the food.

By focusing on whole, unprocessed foods that are good sources of fiber, such as beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, you are most likely to choose more nutrient dense foods and increase the quality of your eating plan. Fiber is one of the nutrients that is both underconsumed and a public health concern.

Low intakes of dietary fiber, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, are due to low intakes of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Many refined grains are stripped of their fiber. 

Dietary fiber consists of nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants. Most adults should get between 25 and 30 grams of fiber daily for females and males, respectively. The guideline is 14 grams per 1000 calories per day. 

Here are resources for you to help individuals find more fiber:

Here is a chart from the Dietary Guidelines for food sources of fiber.

Here are resources from our store:

Here is a handy handout on “finding” fiber and how to make little changes to get enough.

Get A Plant Slant

The Plant Slant Poster is new! The idea is to show the benefits of a more plant-based diet so everyone can think about how their diet can help them achieve a more optimal health status. You do not have to be on a diet or be vegetarian or vegan to slant your eating towards plants!

And plans benefit 9 different health points from vision to digestion to weight control to the avoidance of chronic diseases. 

 

This colorful poster proclaims the benefits of eating a plant-based dietary pattern with MORE vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds and LESS animal-based and processed foods. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, this eating pattern is more health promoting and has a lower impact on the environment.

The image of two positive, active bodies made up of brightly colored plant foods catches the eye. Just a quick glance at the poster shows how a plant-based eating pattern is better for the whole body (bones, brain, heart, eyes, digestive system) and influences body weight and the risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.

The vibrant graphics encourage individuals to linger long enough to read that eating more plant-based foods is better for the environment. From vegans to lactovegetarians and flexitarians, there are different ways to enjoy a plant-based eating pattern.

 Lessons from The Plant Slant poster:

  • A dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based and processed foods promotes the health of your whole body.
  • Plant-based foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  • Eating a plant-based diet supports sustainability of the environment.
  • The definition of a plant-based eating pattern is broad. You can choose to include some animal-based foods (flexitarian and lactovegetarian) or avoid them altogether (vegan).

Check out our entire plant slant promotion collection!

 

 

Plant Based Glossary

The Food Navigator has a great list of food trends for 2018. One thing is for sure. There are more choices for plant-based milks, dairy products,  and meat alternatives than ever before in the store. This trend is predicted to continue. Sales of plant-based foods are estimated to be around $3.1 billion dollars.

“Plant Based” is a great educational message for the new year, too.

Plant-based is just a new way to present most of the lessons from the US Dietary Guidelines. After all, MyPlate is 3/4 plants with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And legumes are listed as both a vegetable and a protein.

Here is a handy glossary:

  • Plant based – A diet higher in plantbased foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Whole foods – foods that are nearly in their original, whole state and have little processing; specifically they are not primarily filled with added sugar or fat or refined flour. For example, whole wheat cream of wheat is more whole than corn flakes or fruit charms. Whole wheat bread is more whole than muffins. Potatoes are more whole than potato chips. Apples are more whole than apple pop tarts. Whole foods have more fiber, fewer calories, less salt, sugar, and fat. So you get more nutrients and fiber, and fewer calories or fewer grams of artery-clogging fat or blood pressure-rising sodium. Unfortunately the trade off is that you get less convenience. But planning ahead and cooking at home and planning leftovers is a simple workaround that is better for your pocketbook and your health.
  • Non-dairy milk – a “milk-like beverage” made from a plant-based ingredient(s). Examples include almond milk, flax milk, and soy milk. There are also many others in this category with the newest being from peas (Rippl). The advantage to this type of milk is that it is not regulated by the FDA the same way dairy milk is and thus it can contain many beneficial additives such as more calcium or omega-3 fatty acids. You should still read the label to make sure that it is not a significant source of saturated fat, trans fat, or sugar. Coconut milk often contains a lot of saturated fat and flavored milk may contain a lot of sugar. Some of these milks do not contain any calcium so that is another item to check, too. Regular milk always contains about 30% of the daily value for calcium so try to stay close to that amount since dairy products are usually the most significant source of calcium in the modern diet. The benefits of this plant-based milk are that it is plant based, sweetly flavored, thicker than skim milk, and easier on the digestive system for most people. It is also an option for people who choose to be vegan or vegetarian.
  • Dietary Guidelines – a set of guidelines mandated by US law that provides an academic committee to review the most recent nutrition research and provide guidelines to Americans and their health care providers every five years.
  • MyPlate – the icon for a balanced diet from the USDA. It is based on the dietary guidelines and helps people balance their meals by providing a plate graphic with 5 proportional food group sections that include dairy, protein, fruits, vegetables, and grains.
  • Vegan – a person who does not consume any animal products or foods that contain them and who does not use any products that are the byproducts of animal slaughter
  • Vegetarian – a person who chooses not to eat any meat but who may or may not consume eggs or dairy
  • Flexitarian or semi-vegetarian – a person who is vegetarian but who might eat fish or poultry on occasion
  • Grains – the seeds of grasses that are produced for food; examples include oats, wheat, rice, barley, quinoa, teff, amaranth, and many more
  • Vegetables – The parts of herbaceous plants eaten as food by humans, whole or in part, are generally considered vegetables. This includes leaves, seeds, bulbs, stems, roots, flowers, and fruits.
  • Fruits – in botany, fruits are the seed-bearing structures of plants. In the culinary world they tend to be the sweet ones like oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, kiwis, melons, berries, peaches, pears, and more. The more savory fruits like tomatoes and avocados are used as vegetables in a kitchen.
  • Beans – seeds from a legume pod also called dried beans, legumes, or pulses are from flowering plants in the Leguminosae family. This includes the soybean, chickpea, bean, and pea, among others (Morris 365). Other lesser known members of the legume family include clover, licorice, lentils, and the peanut.
  • Aquafaba – the cooking liquid of beans and other legumes like chickpeas, which can be used to replace egg whites since it can be whipped. It is a mix of protein, starches, and other substances which leach into the water during the cooking process. FMI see aquafaba.com
  • Organic – food that is free of certain pesticides and fertilizers; using organic processes for sustainable farming.
  • Local – food that is grown and sold locally; retains biodiversity of food and diversity of local land plus keeps money in local economy
  • Conventional – food that is grown without organic certification
  • Meatless – meals made without meat, poultry, or fish
  • Meatless Monday – a tradition among vegetarians where Mondays feature meatless meals
  • Meat as flavoring component or garnish – a topic and general tenet of plant-based diets where meat becomes a flavoring agent or garnish instead of being the main entree on the plate.