Who Cares About the Dietary Guidelines?


Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 were realeased today.

After waiting months, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were officially released today. Yes, 2010, not 2011. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are released every five years, with the most recent in 2005. To stay on schedule, despite the delay, they are still the 2010 Guidelines.

While dietitians and other health professionals anticipated this day and tweeted (#DGA2010) about it during the press conference this morning, at the same time many of us wondered, and asked: “Who really cares?” The Dietary Guidelines have been around for over 30 years and, outside of nutrition and public health professionals, no one seems to pay attention. Even the current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsak said that before his involvement in this edition of the Guidelines, he had never even read them!

So what will make people pay attention now? The perfect storm perhaps of the Healthcare Reform Bill, the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign, increased healthcare costs, additions and incentives to the WIC and SNAP (formerly food stamps) programs, and the “growing” obesity rates and related health issues, people just might be ready to pay attention.

We hope so. Registered Dietitians have been working to educate the public on the guidelines for years; even if it wasn’t the specific statements, the concepts were the same.  

The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 have two overarching concepts which I have translated:

USDA message: “Maintain calorie balance over time and achieve and sustain a healthy weight.”

Shelley’s message: “If you are going to eat that many calories, be prepared to burn them off.” 


USDA message: “Focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages.”

Shelley’s message: “More fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein; less processed foods with added sugar, sodium and other things you can’t pronounce.”

There are 23 recommendations for all Americans age two and up, and an additional 6 recommendations for specific population groups (women of childbearing age, pregnant, breastfeeding and people over 50).

There is a “Cliff Notes” version of the guidelines for consumers:


  • Enjoy your foods but, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.  


  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.


  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead sugary drinks

Ultimately, we can preach and teach and offer you the tools, but as my colleague Leslie Schilling, RD tweeted: “USDA can give guidelines all day long but at the end of the day, what you’re chewing is simply up to YOU.”

Do you care about the Dietary Guidelines?



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