Every 5 years, the US Government releases a new diet guideline, urging Americans what they should eat to meet nutritional needs. The new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines was just released last week. The whole world is watching. Why? Most food conglomerates are Americans owned. And most imported foods came from the States too. So what we are eating is influencing what the rest of the world is eating.
The problem with government-released guidelines, is that they need to take into considerations of major stakeholders and don’t want to appear favoring one over the other. And who are these huge stakeholders? Meat industry, dairy industry, soda companies, GMO corporation, fast-food chains, processed food empires, etc. You get my point.
And that’s why there are some funny recommendations. For instance, it highlights what food that are safe to eat: meat, poultry, eggs, milk (dairy), yogurt (dairy again), cheese (dairy again!), aspartame (artificial sweeteners). Believe it or not, it even mentions oil! Soy milk also makes the list, but almond milk which has higher sales figure than soymilk since 2014 didn’t make it. Perhaps the genetically-modified soy industry did have some influence.
When it comes to foods we shouldn’t eat much, the government avoids alienating food companies. So the guidelines avoid mentioning names.
Instead, it gets technical and starts throwing out numbers. “Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars”, and “Consume less than 2300 mg per day of sodium” are printed on the Executive Summary. For the general public, in addition to discussing technical numbers, isn’t “drink less soda” and “eat less processed foods” much easier to understand?
I’m most disappointed that it failed to acknowledge the rising sentiment of the public, that we want a responsible food system that benefits health, the environment and is still financially sustainable. The committee didn’t consider the health and environment benefits of organic farming, or the solidly strong evidence on the benefits of a plant-based diet (i.e. eat more plants and eat less animals). And as expected, it didn’t mention anything about organic foods, GMO and additives either.
So, I think most of these food conglomerates are quite happy with the new 2015 Dietary Guidelines. And for the general public and the rest that are left out, there’s nothing new. Life still goes on.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.