Make every bite and sip count! This is the call to action in the 2020 – 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Every five years the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) update the DGAs, which are a framework for healthy eating patterns throughout life, aimed to promote health, prevent disease, and meet nutrient needs.
The 2020 – 2025 DGA provide suggestions for healthy eating patterns throughout all stages of life, including specific recommendations for women during pregnancy and lactation, and for infants from birth to 23 months.
The dietary guidelines have four main points:
1. Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.
2. Customize and enjoy nutrient dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.
3. Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits.
4. Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.
The USDA MyPlate and MyPlate website guide all Americans to discover a healthy eating routine that is just right for their individual needs. MyPlate highlights five food groups (dairy, fruit, vegetables, protein, and grains) and suggests ways you can add more foods packed with vitamins and minerals, called “nutrient-dense foods,” to your diet. Examples of nutrient-dense foods are low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Nutrient-dense dairy foods are low fat milk, cheese and yogurt.
One healthy tip to help you meet your food group needs is to include two to three food groups with each meal and, watch your portion size to stay within calorie limits. To learn more about portion size and how much you need from each food group, go to MyPlate.gov.
Healthy eating should be enjoyable! Picking foods that sound good to you will also help make changes easier to stick with long term. Try to swap healthier foods into your diet, like low fat yogurt and fruit instead of a donut or Danish, or simply choose whole wheat bread instead of white bread.
It is recognized in the DGAs that milk, cheese and yogurt are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin D, iodine, and vitamin B12. These nutrients provided by dairy products are important throughout your entire life.
- Starting at 6 months old, dairy foods like cheese and yogurt are important first foods that help form the foundation for healthy eating.
- At 12 months, toddlers can drink whole milk instead of breastmilk or formula as a t critically important source of 13 essential nutrients important for healthy growth and development.
- From pre-school to teenage years, dairy foods provide high-quality nutrients that help kids grow, thrive and stay healthy.
- Adolescence is a critical time for good nutrition. Teen girls especially fall short of Vit. B12 and bone-building nutrients. Dairy foods have more bone building nutrients per calorie than any other food group.
- For women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, dairy foods provide vitamin B12 as well as iodine which are important to brain health.
- Older adults benefit from protein and minerals in dairy to support bone health and maintain muscle.
Healthy eating is important throughout all stages of life for growth, prevention of disease, and overall wellness. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate are helpful guides to help you make every bite and sip count.
Learn more about the DGA here.
Makenna Stafford, is currently a Master’s student in the Dietetic Nutrition Program at Oregon State University. She recently worked as a Dietetic Intern for the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council in 2021.