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What we know about what you eat and how it affects your health is ever-evolving. And if you believe everything you read, you might think that what you “should” eat changes by the second. (Low fat? High fat? Good carb? Bad carb?) There are so many different trends in nutrition that are just "trends" but some are truly life changing.
But in reality, while we learn more and more about nutrition science, the fundamentals of nutrition persist. We’re learning more about the underlying mechanisms and the individuality of the basic principles (how they impact different people differently), but in general, we know what constitutes a healthy diet.
The Dietary Guidelines
In the world of nutrition, the go-to source for reliable, science-based guidance is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) – a report issued every five years by the USDA and HHS, based on a reassessment of the full body of nutrition science, including any new science published since the last iteration. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, therefore, develops the DGA taking into account all that we know in the field. That means any evidence for the latest dietary fad is taken into consideration, but it will only make the final DGA if the evidence is strong enough.
What we’re left with is a reliable and relatively stable set of recommendations for what and how the general population should eat and drink.
So, if you’re wondering whether the latest headline or the hottest new celebrity diet will be your one-way ticket to achieving your nutrition goals, the answer is maybe, but until we learn more, you should base your dietary choices in the guidelines that have stood the test of time.
Healthy Eating Patterns
The DGA 2015-2020 outlined dietary recommendations based on flexible eating patterns because it’s impossible to follow a “prescription-style” diet in everyday life, where there’s variability in when, where, what, why and how you eat. Having a healthy eating pattern will go further than any nutrition trend.
The first guideline in the DGA is to follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan – one in which “all food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.”
According to the DGA, a healthy eating pattern includes:
- A variety of vegetables from all the subgroups – dark green, red and orange, legumes, starchy and other
- Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese and/or fortified soy beverages
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, and nuts, seeds and soy products
That’s right – the basics. The traditions of nutrition are principles that you probably could have guessed yourself. It might seem a little boring, but in many ways, it’s reliable and comforting – a lot like other traditions we look forward to at this time of year.
Need some well-rounded meal ideas for your healthy eating pattern? Find recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks on the Pre recipe page.
What are some of your food or nutrition traditions? Tell us in the comments below!