It’s no surprise that the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) are out and have been in the news. You may be wondering why all the buzz and what it means for you.

For starters, the DGAs are guidelines based on nutrition research that inform federal food, nutrition and health policies and programs. They are written for health professionals to focus on disease prevention rather than disease treatment. The National School Lunch and Breakfast programs are examples of nutrition programs that develop meal patterns based on the science of the DGAs.

Healthy eating patterns are important for children to develop at a young age to prevent chronic diseases as adults. A healthy meal pattern includes lots of vegetables with less amounts of fruit, whole grains, lean protein foods and unsaturated fats, such as oils and nuts. The DGAs have not changed much since 2010, but there are a few tips and modifications that your family may want to consider when creating healthy eating patterns at home.

  • Sugar, specifically added sugars. Most know that sodas and candy are sources of added sugars and the guidelines now reflect that Americans have been consuming too much. Aim for less than 10 percent of daily calories from added sugar. For a person consuming 2000 calories, 200 calories from a soda, sweet tea or other beverage quickly adds up. Aim for non-sweet tea and water most of the time.
  • Cholesterol and saturated fat. We don’t have to avoid fats, but choose unsaturated fats most of the time. Cutting the visible fat off the steak, sautéing in olive oil and choosing low-fat dairy are all ways to reduce saturated fats in your day.
  • Caffeine. Coffee and tea drinks seem to be everywhere, but energy drinks are on the rise as well. Kids don’t need them and the recommendation for caffeine intake remains at 300mg or less per day.
We’re all unique in our food likes and dislikes, so we can all benefit from making small changes in our eating habits to improve health for the long-term.
Sarah Krieger, M.P.H., R..D, L.D./N., nutrition instructor for Fit4Allkids at All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine, is a registered dietitian and is a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Since Fit4Allkids began in 2004, Sarah has counseled hundreds of families. She is a graduate of Central Michigan University and earned a Master's Degree in Public Health from the University of South Florida. Sarah is wife to Kevin and mother to 3 very busy and loud children.

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