Simplify the Complex

If you’re like me, you appreciate succinct, simple and easy to understand (and apply) health and nutrition information. One look at the lengthy 2010 Dietary Guidelines document tells us the information contained within those pages is anything but succinct, simple, or easy. This week’s post reduces the complexity of the guidelines and summarizes what dietary practices we need to implement and/or change to positively influence overall health and wellbeing. For a full examination of the updated guidelines, visit 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.

Purposeful Updates

lab-work-1575840-640x960The dietary guidelines are revised and published every five years. While it may seem excessive to change the guidelines so often, there is a clear purpose for doing so. Each updated iteration of the guidelines reflect current nutritional science discoveries. Science is always changing; thus, professional recommendations change – as they should!

Further, nutrition isn’t generalized. Yes, there are nutrients all humans need – carbs & fiber, fats, lipids, vitamins, minerals, & water. However, the amounts of nutrients required vary based on a person’s gender, age, activity level, health status, and other considerations. The guidelines recognize this fact.

The Highlights green-highlighter-1526952-638x285

The new guidelines include 5 overarching principles:

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount.
  3. Limit calories from added sugar, saturated fat and sodium.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
  5. Support healthy eating patterns for all.

The Specificseye-female-funny-glass-41558

What do these 5 principles entail? It’s really not as complicated as it might appear to be on the surface. When we take a closer look, we see that the guidelines come down to this:

  • Eat a variety of foods including whole fruits and veggies (greens, starches, etc.) and whole grains (making at least half of the daily intake whole grains).
  • Incorporate low-fat dairy, yogurt and cheese.
  • Consume lean, high protein foods such as nuts, fish, legumes, poultry and eggs. Yes, eggs! Eggs are not an exiled food – in fact – eggs contain more monounsaturated fats (the good stuff) than saturated fat.
  • Oils

All this means is a healthy and varied diet limits trans and saturated fats, sodium and added sugars.pexels-photo-66440

I emphasize the “added” part because so many of my clients and students become confused and identify anything with an “ose” as taboo. This is not the case. Yes, fruits, starches, veggies, milk, etc. contain sugar. What we are talking about here is the sugars added on top of what naturally occurs in the food itself. For example, canned fruit in heavy syrup. Fruit is nature’s candy and doesn’t need added sugar to boost its flavor. Other examples include corn syrup, sugar added to beverages, baked goods, etc. The easiest way to determine if a food has added sugar is to examine the ingredient list. Coming soon – by 2018 – changes to food labels will take the guess work out. Food manufacturers are required to list the grams of added sugar on the labels! This is a good thing!

Moving forward: Some of the same standard suggestions still apply:

Consume less than 10% of calories from added sugars, less than 10% from saturated fats, consume alcohol in moderation, and keep sodium to less than 2300mg/day. Keep in mind – these are guidelines – not laws. Also, certain medical conditions and personal needs may require a modification in one or more of the recommendations. That’s for a medical nutrition expert to determine.

The guidelines also support and work in tandem with the Physical Activity Guidelines set for for Americans. Experts recognize that achieving a balance between active living and healthy eating supports a reduction in disease risk and enhances overall well-being. So, don’t stop moving. Also, don’t imprison yourself to old ideas about what is healthy and what isn’t. Focus on eating better and moving more.

It’s all about that balance…

To learn more, check out these links:


Categories: Nutrition

Erin Nitschke

Passionate wife, mother, college educator, writer, blogger, and health and fitness professional.


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