Lake Regional Nutrition Tip: Make Every Bite Count

Anita Marlay
Lake Regional Health
Make Every Bite Count

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released in December 2020 with the theme of Make Every Bite Count. These guidelines are updated by The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services every five years based on the current body of nutrition science. The guidelines directly influence food stamp policies and school lunch programs and indirectly affect how food manufacturers formulate products. They also provide general guidance to the public on how to eat a healthy diet.

Although there are no major changes from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, this is the first time the guidelines have provided specific recommendations for different life stages. This makes sense because people at different ages should be consuming different diets.

The new guidelines also offer advice for pregnant and lactating women.

Many scientists and nutrition experts were disappointed that the recommendations for added sugar intake and alcohol consumption remained the same despite increasing obesity rates and evidence of harm from excessive alcohol.

However, the recommendations are already low and if the restrictions are too extreme, people may stop trying to meet any of the guidelines.

Here are the key recommendations from the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage. It is never too early or too late to eat healthy. For about the first six months of life, infants should be exclusively fed breast milk or iron-fortified formula. At about six months, nutrient-dense foods from all food groups can be introduced. Potentially allergenic foods such as peanuts, soy and egg should be introduced at this time as there is no evidence that delaying the introduction of allergenic foods can help prevent food allergies. From 12 months through adulthood, continue to eat a wide variety of foods to meet nutrient needs and achieve a healthy body weight.

Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions and budgetary considerations. Use the dietary guidelines as a framework for a healthy diet pattern, but customize it to meet individual needs.

Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits. The core elements of a healthy diet pattern include:

Vegetables, any vegetable or 100 percent vegetable juice counts as a member of the vegetable group. It is important to eat a variety of veggies.

Fruits, includes whole fruits and 100 percent fruit juice.

Grains, any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain is a grain product. At least half of what you eat should be whole grain.

Dairy, including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, lactose-free milk and fortified soy milk and yogurt.

Protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products.

Oils, including vegetables oils and oils in food, such as seafood and nuts.

Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat and sodium. Limit alcoholic beverages. At every life stage, just meeting food group recommendations requires most of a person’s daily calorie needs and sodium limits. This leaves little room in a healthy diet for extra calories in the form of added sugar, saturated fat or alcoholic beverages. Limits for these are:

Added sugars: Less than 10 percent of calories per day starting at age 2. Americans currently consume about 13 percent of calories from added sugar. Avoid foods and beverages with added sugars for children younger than 2.

Saturated fat: Less than 10 percent of total calories per day starting at age 2.

Sodium: Less than 2,300 mg per day and even less for children younger than age 14.

Alcoholic beverages: Adults should limit alcohol intake to two drinks or less in a day for men and one drink or less in a day for women. This is not meant as an average amount per week, but as a daily limit. Saving up all your drinks for the weekend doesn’t work. Drinking less is better for health than drinking more. Pregnant women should not drink any alcohol.

For more information about the recommendations in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans or to see the specific recommendations for your life stage, you can find the full 164-page report at www.dietaryguidelines.gov. 

Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the Cardiopulmonary Rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.

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