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Dietary Guidelines Affirm Meat and Poultry’s Role in Healthy Diet

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

(North American Meat Institute)

The Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) last week released the final 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans policy report. Despite calls in the Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee’s report to limit red and processed meat consumption, the final guidelines affirm that meat and poultry play a role in a healthy diet. Specifically, the Dietary Guidelines recommendation for the meats, poultry and eggs subgroup in the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern at the 2,000-calorie level is 26 ounce-equivalents per week, which is consistent with 2010 recommendations. The Dietary Guidelines state that processed meat and poultry can fit within the healthy eating patterns, provided those eating patterns are within daily limits for sodium, calories from saturated fats and added sugars and total calories.

This eighth edition of the Dietary Guidelines emphasizes overall food patterns, as opposed to individual nutrients and food groups, and establishes five overarching recommendations for American diets: follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan; focus on variety, nutrient density and amount; limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake; shift to healthier food and beverage choices; and support healthy eating patterns for all.

According to the new guidelines, a healthy diet contains a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy and other vegetables; fruits, especially whole fruits; grains, at least half of which are whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese and/or fortified soy beverages; a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products and nuts and seeds; and oils.

USDA and HHS also did not include language about the sustainability and environmental impact of certain foods in the final policy document, thereby remaining within the scope of the guidelines’ mandate to provide nutrition advice. The guidelines further recommend Americans limit their sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams a day, consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars, and limit saturated fats to less than 10 percent of daily calories. USDA and HHS removed restrictions on dietary cholesterol for the first time since the guidelines were released in 1980.

In response to the new guidelines, the Meat Institute issued a statement, in which it commended USDA and HHS for providing a science-based approach to healthy eating and underscored the nutrient density of meat and poultry products.

“Meat and poultry products are among the most nutrient dense foods available,” NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter said in the statement. “They are rich sources of complete protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins, and many peer reviewed studies show the contributions they make to healthy diets and the potential deficiencies that can occur when people exclude animal proteins.”

The Dietary Guidelines provide dietary guidance for individuals two years and older, and are intended to help individuals improve and maintain overall health, while reducing the risk of chronic disease. The Dietary Guidelines are used in developing federal food, nutrition and health policies and programs.

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