Every five years, the United States Department of Health and Human Services updates its dietary guidelines, and the 2020-2025 edition reflects an increasing understanding of how food and nutrition contribute to good health and chronic disease prevention. Food as medicine is a concept that more mainstream healthcare practitioners are embracing to help people stay healthy at all stages of life including older adulthood.
A joint press release from HHS and the Department of Agriculture states that the new dietary guidelines use the best available evidence to provide families the information they need to make healthy nutrition decisions. Two topics in the 2020-2025 guidelines have received extra attention by the media for the lack of changes in the updated recommendations regarding food and beverages; added sugars and alcohol.
While the new guidelines continue to recommend limiting sugar and alcohol, some experts say they haven’t gone far enough and that adults should consume no more than one alcoholic drink per day for men and women, and that a healthy diet should keep added sugars to less than 6 percent of daily calorie intake.
While allowing for adaptations due to cultural tradition, budget and personal preferences, the new guidelines focus on creating a nutrient-rich diet from each of the five food groups – vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and fortified soy alternative, and proteins, while staying within carloric limits. Limiting foods and drinks with added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium as well as alcoholic beverages is also a cornerstone of the guidelines.
Adults over the age of 65 have unique dietary needs including getting enough potassium, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, minerals, and dietary fiber. By maintaining a healthy weight in combination with a nutritious diet and regular physical activity, older adults can lower their risk for developing chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease while boosting energy levels.
The new dietary guidelines are also incorporated into the MyPlate App designed to help people set daily food goals, track progress, and earn badges on the way to a healthier diet. The MyPlate website also offers many resources including recipes and toolkits for dietitian nutritionists, food producers and retailers, and community and professional organizations. Learn more about healthy eating and get personalized resources by taking the MyPlate quiz here.