Diet Patterns Defined by Guidelines for Americans

Remember the basic four food groups?

Beth Dixon, Ph.D., from the Department of Nutrition of New York University is going to try to talk about Dietary Guidelines for Americans (but it sounds like she’s got a sore throat).

Out of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, she says, came a focus on consuming a variety of foods, controlling calorie intake, increasing fruits and vegetables, etc. We know all this, but what was new was the USDA Food Guide (based on MyPyramid) and the DASH eating plan.

The USDA Food Guide were designed to be flexible with 12 different plans at a 2000-calorie level with main food groups (like fruits, vegetables) given in amounts (like 2 cups per day). There are also subgroup categories such as vegetables having a subgroup of dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, etc.

“The idea behind these food plans is to focus on nutrient-dense foods,” she says. “There’s a behind-the-scenes way of counting food groups.”

To get to the concept of diet quality, the USDA folks developed a Healthy Eating Index. It’s based on the idea that there is some way to measure diet quality that assesses adherence to a diet plan. Again, like other indices, it has weighted scoring of various foods.

There have also been recent revisions to the HEI such as “SoFAAS” (which we’ll keep hearing about) that represents solid fats, alcohol and added sugars.

She goes on with a highlight of Guenther et al. data in Nutrition Insight on NHANES showing that there is a significantly lower intake of whole fruits and whole grains, higher dairy (mostly cheese).

And she also looks at Krebs-Smith et al (J Ntr 2010) data showing that many Americans do not meet dietary recommendations.

More studies… (my wrists hurt)

There are lots of total diet indices that show that a better quality diet is associated with better markers in cardiovascular disease.

Stay tuned for 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans with updates to the HEI. A direct quote from the new guide, “Recommended intake amounts in the USDA Food pattern remains unchanged from 2005 with the exception of the vegetable subgroups [red orange veg and cooked dry beans and peas].”

She’s closing now… whew! … with Reedy et al data from 2010 Am J Prev med on The Food Environment. Looks like it’s in a typical American environment you can potentially find it easy to eat whole grains, but harder in other areas like fruits and vegetables.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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