New Dietary Recommendations Pharmacists Should Promote


For patients still focused on their New Year's resolutions to lose weight and eat better, pharmacists can be helpful advocates for weight-loss counseling and dietary goals.

For patients still focused on their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and eat better, pharmacists can be helpful advocates for weight-loss counseling and dietary goals.

One resource that pharmacists can consult is the new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Every 5 years, the US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture release nutritional and dietary information for the public. These guidelines can impact federal food, nutrition, and health policies and programs, including those associated with businesses, schools, community groups, media, and the food industry.

One of the guidelines’ focuses is to make dietary changes that can lead to a drop in chronic diseases that are linked with poor eating habits. These preventable chronic diseases include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and poor bone health.

“Strong evidence shows that healthy eating patterns are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease,” the report noted. “Moderate evidence indicates that healthy eating patterns also are associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers (such as colorectal and postmenopausal breast cancers), overweight, and obesity.”

Some of the key recommendations include limiting the amount of calories per day from added sugars to less than 10%, limiting the amount of calories per day from saturated fats to less than 10%, and consuming less than 2300 mg per day of sodium.

In general, Americans should eat a variety of vegetables, fruits (especially whole fruits), grains (at least 50% of which should be whole grains), fat-free or low-fat dairy products, oils, and a variety of protein foods. The report also mentioned that healthy eating patterns tend to include less processed meat and meat in general, processed poultry, sugar-sweetened foods, and refined grains.

Americans should also opt for more nutrient-dense snacks instead of high-calorie ones, as nutrient-dense food typically has fewer calories and less sodium.

Instead of chips and dip, for example, a more healthful option would be carrots and hummus. An apple is better than a fruit bar, and unsalted nuts are better than a chocolate bar.

Here are 5 more key findings from the new dietary guidelines:

1. Around 75% of Americans have a diet low in vegetables, fruits, dairy, and oils.

  • The biggest disparity in terms of the amounts of vegetables that Americans should be eating versus their actual consumption was seen in boys aged 9 to 13 years and girls aged 14 to 18 years.
  • The most popular vegetables were potatoes and tomatoes.

2. Most Americans are getting enough total grain and protein, but many do not follow the guidelines for the subgroups under these 2 categories. In other words, they may be getting enough protein, but they may be obtaining it from less-good sources.

3. Dairy intake is lower than what is recommended for all age groups except children aged 1 to 3 years.

4. Americans aren’t eating enough seafood or legumes, but their average intake for nuts, seeds, and soy products are close to the recommended levels.

5. On average, boys and men are eating too much meat, poultry, and eggs.

  • These patients can reduce their intake of protein foods by incorporating more vegetables into their diets.

Some strategies for incorporating more vegetables into one’s diet include choosing a side salad when it is an option and increasing the vegetable content in dishes with many ingredients.

Patients can transition to more whole grains by switching from white to whole-grain pasta and from white to brown rice.

Increased dairy intake can happen by drinking more low-fat milk with meals and incorporating yogurt into snacks or dressings.

Patients can increase the variety of their protein sources by trying more foods like salmon steaks, tuna sandwiches, bean chili, or almonds. Seafood can replace meat, poultry, or eggs as the protein source in meals twice per week, as well.

One additional finding was that the young and the old were more likely to demonstrate healthy eating behaviors.

“Although most Americans urgently need to shift intakes to achieve the healthy eating patterns…young children and older Americans generally are closer to the recommendations than are adolescents and young adults,” the report read. “For some aspects of eating patterns, maintaining the intake levels of young children as they grow into adolescence and adulthood could result in healthy eating patterns across the lifespan and improved health over time.”

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