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USDA, HHS releases updated dietary guidelines

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On Jan. 7, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Sylvia M. Burwell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack released updated nutritional guidelines that encourage Americans to adopt a series of science-based recommendations to improve how they eat to reduce obesity and prevent chronic diseases.

The 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is the nation’s trusted resource for evidence-based nutrition recommendations and serves to provide the general public, as well as policy makers and health professionals with the information they need to help the public make informed choices about their diets at home, school, work and in their communities, said USDA in a press release.

“Protecting the health of the American public includes empowering them with the tools they need to make healthy choices in their daily lives,” said Burwell. “By focusing on small shifts in what we eat and drink, eating healthy becomes more manageable. The Dietary Guidelines provide science-based recommendations on food and nutrition so people can make decisions that may help keep their weight under control and prevent chronic conditions, like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.”

Vilsack added, “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is one of many important tools that help to support a healthier next generation of Americans. The latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines provides individuals with the flexibility to make healthy food choices that are right for them and their families and take advantage of the diversity of products available, thanks to America’s farmers and ranchers.”


Each of the specific recommendations in the document fits into five categories.

The Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to follow a healthy eating pattern across their lifespan and to focus on variety, amount and nutrient density of foods.

USDA and HHS encourage Americans to limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and to reduce sodium intake, while also shifting to healthier food and beverage choices.

Finally, the Dietary Guidelines support healthy eating patterns for everyone, defining eating patterns as the combination of foods and drinks that a person eats over time.


The report recommended a healthy eating pattern consisting of 2,000 calories per day.

The recommendations also noted that 26-ounce equivalents of meats, poultry and eggs should be consumed each week.

“For those who eat animal products, the recommendation for the protein foods subgroup of meats, poultry, and eggs can be met by consuming a variety of lean meats, lean poultry and eggs. Choices within these eating patterns may include processed meats and processed poultry as long as the resulting eating pattern is within limits for sodium, calories from saturated fats and added sugars and total calories,” the report states.  

The report also notes that average intakes of meats, poultry and eggs for teen boys and adult men are above recommendations in the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern. 


House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) noted, “The House Agriculture Committee has been actively engaged in the oversight of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans process by raising concerns of the actions taken by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to develop these guidelines.”

He further noted that the guidelines directly affect every American and the document intends to aid individuals in making educated food purchasing decision to live a healthy lifestyle.

“Therefore, they should be based on sound, consistent and irrefutable science,” Conaway added.

Beef industry

For cattle producers, the Dietary Guidelines reaffirm the role of lean beef in a healthy diet, also confirming that Americans are, on average, consuming lean meats in amounts consistent with recommendations for protein foods.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Philip Ellis commended Burwell and Vilsack for ensuring the final recommendations were based on the latest nutrition evidence available

“U.S. cattle producers work each and every day to provide safe, wholesome and nutritious beef for consumers around the world,” said Ellis. “Since the first Dietary Guidelines were released in 1980, external fat on beef has decreased 81 percent and 65 percent of the most popular beef cuts sold at retail are lean, a prime example of beef producers responding to consumers’ nutritional preferences.”

Health impacts

Richard Thorpe, a physician and Texas cattle producer, agreed, saying he is pleased the guidelines recognize all the strong science that supports the many Americans who are looking to build a healthful diet with lean beef.  

“As a physician, I appreciate the Secretaries making sure the Dietary Guidelines are based on the latest nutrition science,” said Thorpe. “Numerous studies have shown positive benefits of lean beef in the diet, and I commonly encourage my patients to include beef in their diet to help them maintain a healthy weight and get the nutrients they need to be physically active. Lean beef is a wholesome, nutrient-rich food that helps us get back to the basics of healthy eating, providing many essential nutrients such as zinc, iron, protein and B vitamins, with fewer calories than many plant-based sources of protein.”

Thorpe further noted that consumers can feel confident about putting lean beef on their plate.

“Over the last decade or so, a significant amount of research shows that many people can lose and maintain a healthy weight, support a healthy metabolism and age more vibrantly when they consume more high-quality protein, within calorie goals,” said Thorpe. “As a physician, I see an opportunity to improve the health of Americans in all age categories by choosing nutrient rich protein foods, like lean beef, more often and by pairing them with more vegetables, fruits and whole grains.”

More information on the Dietary Guidelines will be available in next week’s Roundup.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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