Dietary Guidelines Webinar with Dr. Anastasia Snelling

Dietary Guidelines Webinar with Dr. Anastasia Snelling

Online MS in Nutrition Education Program Director Anastasia Snelling presented on February 23, 2016 on the latest updates to the Dietary Guidelines. She went into detail on the history of the Dietary Guidelines and how national nutrition education has evolved over the years.

The following is a partial transcript of the archived presentation, which can be viewed here.

What are the Dietary Guidelines?
To extend the theme of telling you about the Master’s in Nutrition Education program, we wanted to give you a snippet of the current information and trends that our program keeps up with and educates on in the field of nutrition. One of the hot topics and current trends is the Dietary Guidelines. If you stop and think about it, people make over 200 decisions every single day on what they are going to eat and sometimes it’s a decision between water and soda, or what people are going to have for lunch and dinner. The United States has been committed from back in the 1900s to give dietary advice to consumers and the Dietary Guidelines are one part of this advice. I’m sure you are all familiar with and The Food Guide Pyramid. The Dietary Guidelines compliment those food guides and consider them the nation’s go-to resource for food guidelines.

Why I like these guidelines is that they really connect food choices with chronic disease. Therefore, I look to them as a professional guide to help people understand in the written word rather than the pictorial guides. The guidelines are very general but they key into some of the current topics in the 21st century when it comes to food and how it relates to diet and health.

The Dietary Guidelines are designed for Americans age two and older and its goal is to promote health, prevent chronic disease, and help people reach and maintaining a healthy weight.

In order to keep it current, the Dietary Guidelines are to be updated every five years. A scientific board comes together, they review the current background research that informs our guidelines and they make recommendations on how to live a healthy life through food choices. The Dietary Guidelines are a key resource for policymakers. If we were to focus on less sodium, we might see that expressed as we have in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) school programs where schools are to provide foods that are lower in sodium since high sodium is related to high blood pressure, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Dietary Guidelines History
The Dietary Guidelines are just one part of nutrition education. If you go back to the 1930’s there were people at the USDA that were saying the type of food that people eat, especially for young children, we need education around. If you choose nutrition education, it has a very long history. Although it seems topical right now, you can go back over 100 years with the government being involved with the types of food people eat. Over the years there were many educational pictures, the Food Wheel in 1984, Food Guide Pyramid in 1994, MyPyramid in 2005 and MyPlate in 2011. The Dietary Guidelines first were released in 1990. If you want a little history, Senator George McGovern from South Dakota was the person who started to connect chronic disease with nutrition.

The challenge with the educational pictures, is that it is hard to take a very complex food supply where many of the foods we eat could be rolled into one meal. Pizza for instance covers many things on MyPlate – it could cover the vegetables, proteins, grains and dairy. Over the years we’ve tried to make this representation simpler. As you can see this is the challenge for nutrition educators. We want a simple message but there is the continued challenge of the complex food supply.

2010 Dietary Guidelines
The recommendations in 2010 focused on:

  • Balancing calories to manage weight
    • If you’ve observed the news, our obesity epidemic started in the late 1990s and it’s started to plateau out but we are in 2016, so we’ve probably endured about 2 decades of people’s weight going up. As you know people who carry more weight are more predisposed to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and a whole host of other physical and emotional challenges both in children and adults.
    • If you think back to MyPlate, it’s hard to communicate how many calories we should take in. The Dietary Guidelines messaging gives out that we should focus on calories. One step further though, I would say we can’t eat our way out of obesity. It doesn’t matter how many fewer calories we take in, we must balance it with physical activity
  • The second recommendation is that link from nutrients in our food supply to chronic disease
    • Sodium is highlighted. Although Sodium is an essential nutrient in our diet, we must take it in salt in some form, unfortunately, processed foods contain twice, three times, four times as much sodium as we actually need. So it predisposes people to certain conditions.
    • The other nutrient is saturated fats which primarily come from animals. The increased reliance on animal proteins also predisposes us to increase our saturated fat intake. By decreasing the amount of animal products we take in will decrease our saturated fats and hopefully reduce blood cholesterol levels.
  • We look to increase some foods and certain nutrients
    • We want to promote more fiber intake, more fruits and vegetables intake, more low-fat skim milk dairy products to promote calcium intake.

As you can see we are trying with these guidelines to build healthier eating patterns not only through education but also through the environment in which we live.

2016 Updates
In the 2016 updates, you start to see more numbers. What we are trying to do with these new recommendations is quantify things. It’s not enough to tell people to eat less sodium, it’s more of what we are actually targeting for. Now that we have these new apps, is the perfect way for people to track how much sugar and dietary fat they are taking in. With the new apps, we empower people to take responsibility for their nutrition choices. This goes nicely with the Affordable Care Act in menu labeling. Here you walk into a franchised food establishment like Starbucks and they are now required to put how many calories are in that latte you are drinking. So we are starting to see more information and education which will hopefully lead to empowering people to make better healthy choices.

Additional Resources
2015 Dietary Guidelines Updates
Food Choices for Weight Management
Food and Nutrition Myths

To learn more about American University’s online Master of Science in Nutrition Education, request more information or call us toll free at 855-725-7614.