The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Thursday released its 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).
“We know that a lifetime of healthy eating helps to prevent chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Karen B. DeSalvo, acting assistant secretary for health, HHS, says in a blog post that appears on the HHS website. “The Dietary Guidelines provides a clear path for the general public, as well as policy makers and health professionals and others who reach the public, to help Americans make healthy choices, informed by a thoughtful, critical and transparent review of the scientific evidence on nutrition.
“Obesity and other chronic diseases come not only with increased health risks, but also at a high cost. Healthy eating is one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce the onset of disease.”
The latest edition of the DGA focuses on three main takeaways to help Americans make decisions about healthy eating, according to the blog post—including: eat for health and for the long run; start with small changes; and support healthy choices for everyone. More about these points can be found here, and go here to see the changes that were made to the guidelines.
Many industry groups applaud new standards
A number of industry groups are commending the new guidelines.
American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) Interim President Joseph Clayton is applauding the guidelines for recommending all forms of fruits and vegetables without limiting language.
“AFFI applauds the administration for recognizing the benefits of all forms of fruits and vegetables—frozen, fresh, canned, dried and 100 percent juice—in achieving and maintaining healthy dietary patterns. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans have a broad reach, and it is important they reflect sound science.
“As confirmed by Frozen Food Foundation-commissioned nutritional studies conducted by the Universities of Georgia and California Davis, frozen fruits and vegetables are as rich in nutrients, and often more so, than fresh stored produce.
“A recent study by the Produce for Better Health Foundation found that government guidelines reinforcing the healthfulness of all forms of fruits and vegetables positively impact consumers’ perceptions of packaged fruits and vegetables, which include frozen, canned, dried and 100 percent juice products. We are pleased that the administration is encouraging Americans to utilize a full range of fruits and vegetables through inclusive language in the new DGA.”
Kathy Means, VP of industry relations of the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), added that her association “applauds the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services for reiterating in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 the need for consumers to significantly increase fruit and vegetable consumption. The new guidelines reinforce that average intake of fruits and vegetables among Americans falls far below recommendations for almost all age-sex groups. Clearly, to make half the plate fruits and vegetables remains important advice to all consumers.
“More specifically, we’re pleased the guidelines clearly convey that nutrients best come from foods rather than supplements and that healthy eating with fruits and vegetables can serve as a keystone habit to help with other recommendations such as limiting added sugars, reducing sodium and choosing a variety of nutrient-dense foods. Furthermore, the guidelines stress fruits and vegetables must be part of all healthy eating patterns, thereby meeting consumers where they are in terms of cultural and personal food preferences—something the world variety of produce naturally serves.
“PMA also applauds the recommendation that ‘everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.’ The produce industry recognizes its responsibility in a multi-component, collaborative approach to make healthy lifestyles and disease prevention top priorities. This shared value has driven the produce industry’s leadership role in marketing fruits and vegetables differently, as demonstrated through PMA’s support of the eat brighter! movement and the FNV program.
“We also appreciate that consumer food safety guidance was included to reinforce the importance of proper produce handling.
“The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 forms the basis for federal health guidance and feeding programs as well as consumer education from health professionals. In combination with PMA and member activities, these new dietary recommendations create a favorable climate for significant growth in fresh produce consumption.”
Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, added, “The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans strongly recommend that all Americans significantly increase their consumption of vegetables and fruit to improve their health. For the first time…this recommendation tops the list of ways to improve eating habits and health. Decades of research indicates that a diet high in vegetables and fruit is consistently associated with positive health outcomes and a decreased risk of chronic disease. Noting that three-fourths of the U.S. population consumes a diet that is low in vegetables and fruits, the new Dietary Guidelines recommends that individuals shift their eating habits to eat more fruits and vegetables every day. To improve public health, United Fresh urges policy makers to align all federal nutrition programs with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines to significantly increase access to fruits and vegetables and to consider a broad range of policy changes and educational strategies to make fruits and vegetables the easy choice for all Americans and to strengthen promotion of Choose My Plate’s key consumer message ‘make half your plate fruits and vegetables.’”
The Canned Food Alliance commends the new DGA as well, specifically regarding the inclusion of recommendations for a higher intake of all forms of fruits, vegetables, seafood and legumes, including canned varieties. Canned foods offer many benefits, including nutrition, convenience, affordability, year-round availability and sustainability, the group says.
The new DGA also affirm that meat and poultry play an important role in a healthy diet, according to the North American Meat Institute (NAMI).
“Meat and poultry products are among the most nutrient dense foods available. They are rich sources of complete protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins, and many peer reviewed studies show the contributions they make to healthy diets and the potential deficiencies that can occur when people exclude animal proteins,” said NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter. “The Dietary Guidelines confirm that a variety of dietary patterns can be followed to achieve a healthy eating pattern. Consumers who choose to eat meat and poultry, as 95 percent of Americans do, can continue to enjoy our products as they have in the past.”
Following an extensive review and comment period for the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, NAMI expressed appreciation to USDA Secretary Vilsack and HHS Secretary Burwell for providing a science-based approach to healthy eating for the diverse American population.
“It is clear the agencies took great care in reviewing the science as well as comments on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report to develop a common sense policy document that all Americans can use to help them make healthy food choices,” said Carpenter.