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Whole food patterns including lean, red meats encouraged in new guidelines

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

In their message concerning the release of the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia M. Burwell and Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack wrote, “The 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines provides guidance for choosing a healthy diet and focusing on preventing the diet-related chronic diseases that continue to affect our population.”

They also note that the guidelines are grounded in current scientific evidence, and they will be used to inform government programs such as USDA’s National School Lunch Program.

“The Dietary Guidelines translates science into succinct, food-based guidance that can be relied upon to help Americans choose a healthy eating pattern and enjoyable diet. We believe that aligning with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines will help many Americans lead healthier and more active lives,” they said.

Overall, the new guidelines are similar to previous recommendations, suggesting a varied and balanced diet.

Recent changes

One difference, described by Donald Keith Layman, is “The 2015 guidelines recognize that the pattern of food we eat makes a difference. Food patterns, how people eat foods and what context they are in makes a difference.”

Layman is a PhD and emeritus professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, Ill. and also believes the guidelines recognize that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for healthy eating and that not everyone has to eat alike.

In regards to animal proteins, the report states, “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.”

In his research, Layman spends a lot of time investigating the reduction of dietary carbohydrates and increasing or maintaining dietary protein, as well as the quality of protein found in different foods.

“A very simple way of thinking about it is, all animal proteins are better than all plant proteins, and there are no exceptions,” he states.

Nutrient density

Although they may vary in other nutrients such as iron or zinc, fish, chicken, beef, pork and other meats have similar protein quality, with a higher protein content per calorie and better amino acid patterns than those found in plant products.

“For example, if we consider an eight-ounce glass of milk, we have to have at least 10 ounces of soymilk to be equal,” Layman comments.

He adds, “One of the terms that the guidelines uses right now is nutrient density. The idea is that we get more nutrients per the calories that we eat. Red meat, for example, is a tremendous food from a nutrient density standpoint. It is loaded with vitamins, minerals and protein, with relatively low calories.”

Wyoming impact

Wyoming Beef Council Executive Director Ann Wittmann also recognizes the importance of nutrients in red meat, and she believes the current recommendations are positive for Wyoming beef producers.

“The new dietary guidelines are good news for beef lovers. They reaffirm the role of lean beef in a healthy diet, and they confirm that Americans are, on average, consuming fresh, lean, red meat at levels consistent with the 2015 dietary guidelines,” she says.

For consumers who are curious about their protein consumption, the beef checkoff has created a protein calculator that can be found at The calculator considers height, weight, age, gender and physical activity levels to estimate an individual’s required protein intake.

“Producers can rely on the checkoff to continue to share science-based nutritional information to the consumer,” she notes.

In regards to support for the industry from the new guidelines, she adds, “It’s a great opportunity for us to be proud of the product that we’re producing and continue to promote lean beef as a wholesome, nutrient-rich food that helps us get back to the basics of healthy eating.”

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at

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