The primary audience for the DGA is professionals that use the recommendations to help shape policy, nutrition programs and educational materials. The Center for Nutritional Policy and Promotion (CNPP), the group that publishes the DGA, will at some point also put out some materials intended for the consumer audience (i.e., all of us). This is where the famous food pyramid first came on the scene in 1992, though the USDA published its first food guide in 1917. The first Dietary Guidelines were published in 1980.
Over the years, there have been a number of iterations on the pyramid. In truth, I personally found the visual somewhat confusing. The stuff at the top of the pyramid was foods to restrict, but isn't the top of the pyramid supposed to be awesome stuff (i.e., the pinnacle of food)? Further, I could not for the life of me ever remember what was in those pyramid bands. Nor could I remember how much of what kinds of food I was supposed to eat. Frankly, the whole thing was kind of confusing for me, so I never paid it much personal attention.
According to some, it's a good thing I didn't pay too close attention as the food pyramid has come under fire from various places over the years. It was perceived as being too heavily focused against fat while ignoring the impact of excessive carbohydrates. Nutritional science is a very political and controversial topic area capable of spurring brawls among academics, journalists, politicians and food companies.
So lo and behold, we now have new Dietary Guidelines. So what's in them? Mostly, common sense, and that is a good and welcome addition. The 2010 DGA can be summarized as having two primary recommendations:
- Maintain calorie balance over time to achieve and sustain a healthy weight. Translation: don't eat too much and exercise more to lose weight and sustain the losses.
- Focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages. Translation: eat more food that is high in nutrients and low in calorie density. Translation of translation: eat mostly food that's good for you.
- Increase vegetable and fruit intake.
- Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green and red and orange vegetables and beans and peas.
- Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains.
- Increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages.
- Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
- Increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry.
- Replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories and/or are sources of oils.
- Use oils to replace solid fats where possible.
- Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products.