News | Published November 28, 2011 | Written by FoodWise by Michele Rager, Registered Dietitian

FoodWise – A Beginner’s Guide to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate

Part I—The Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Whether we're talking about "good" fats or "guilty" pleasures, we often associate positive and negative attributes to the foods that we eat. But who decides which foods are considered "good" or "bad," as well as which foods are best for you?

Let's first discuss the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) and MyPlate - two items that will serve as the foundation for all other discussions from "FoodWise" about good nutrition and creating a healthier you. Part one of this article will focus on the DGA.

Every five years, the Secretaries of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) release an updated set of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.1 The DGA is based on current scientific research and aims to promote overall health and reduce risk of chronic disease through the promotion of healthy eating and physical activity. Over the past year, the USDA and HHS have published the most up-to-date set of evidence-based guidelines - the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. According to the USDA, "Because more than one-third of children, and more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, the 7th edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity."2

The overall goal is to "encourage Americans to eat more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, whole grains and seafood, as well as to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and refined grains."2 You can view the full policy document at the USDA's website or gleam a bit of dietary wisdom from these consumer brochure guidelines, which outline the key messages of the 2010 DGA3:

1. Build a healthy plate
2. Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt
3. Eat the right amount of calories for you
4. Be physically active your way

So what exactly does a healthy eating pattern look like for you? The USDA has also released a new tool - called MyPlate - to help us all make better food choices. To find out more about MyPlate, join me for Part II of this article: "Let the Plate be Your Guide!"