Beef Producer Logo

Advisory committee releases scientific report, with dietary guidelines similar to previous version. You can comment.

Alan Newport, Editor, Beef Producer

July 22, 2020

4 Min Read
Front page of dietary guidelines
USDA's Dietary Guidelines are being prepared for release next year. USDA Dietary Guidelines

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) last week released its scientific report, laying the groundwork for another five years of federal nutrition recommendations.

Americans have until August 13 to submit official comments as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) work to finalize the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs).

The non-pyramid

These guidelines once were known as the “food pyramid,” but now are called dietary guidelines. The current 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a fairly lengthy downloadable report that is 122 pages long.

The guidelines are much more complex today than in years gone by. Here is a simplified example from what the current report calls the “Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern: Recommended Amounts of Food from Each Food Group at 12 Calorie Levels.” A person who needs 2,000 calories per day would be recommended to consume these food types in these amounts:

  • 2.5 cups vegetables

  • 2 cups fruit

  • 3 ounces whole grain

  • 3 ounces refined grain

  • 3 cups dairy

  • 5.5 ounces protein foods

  • 27 grams oils

To compare volumes of these categories, one could convert cups of fruits and vegetables to weights. From one source, one cup of blackberries would weigh 6 ounces, so two cups would weigh 12 ounces. One cup of chopped tomatoes would weigh 5.8 ounces, so 2.5 ounces of tomatoes would weigh 14.5 ounces.

There are many added instructions and guidance for the amounts and descriptions of these food categories. Focusing on proteins, the recommended limit of “meat, poultry and eggs” within that protein category is 26 ounces per week, or about 3.7 ounces per day.

One of the added footnotes for this dietary guideline further describes proteins as, “All seafood, meats, poultry, eggs, soy products, nuts and seeds. Meats and poultry should be lean or low-fat and nuts should be unsalted. Legumes (beans and peas) can be considered part of this group as well as the vegetable group, but should be counted in one group only.”

Guidelines upcoming

The executive summary and the full Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, together with existing guidelines, shows the dietary guidelines continue to recommend limitations on consumption of animal proteins and especially saturated fats and what many people would call “refined sugars,” in addition to recommending consumption of what could be called a moderate component of whole and refined grains. Vegetables and fruits make up the majority of these diets.

Here is an example from the new report shows these recommendations for a 2,000-calorie target within the “Healthy U.S. Style” eating type. You can compare this with the current guidelines listed above, as it is the same diet category and caloric intake:

  • 2.5 cups vegetables

  • 2 cups fruit

  • 3 ounces whole grains

  • 3 ounces refined grains

  • 5.5 ounces protein foods

  • 3 cups dairy

  • 27 grams oils

The “protein foods” include a limit on “meats and poultry” of 23 ounces per week, which would be about 3.3 ounces per day.

The executive summary says, “Across the lifespan, the typical diet Americans consume results in overconsumption of total energy, saturated fats, sodium, added sugars, and for some consumers, alcoholic beverages.”

The authors of the executive summary also said, “The three current USDA Food Patterns are the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern, the Healthy Vegetarian Pattern, and the Healthy Mediterranean-Style Pattern. Based on its review of the evidence, the Committee confirmed that these Food Patterns represent healthy dietary patterns in that they provide the majority of energy from plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds; provide protein and fats from nutrient-rich food sources; and limit intakes of added sugars, solid fats and sodium.”

NCBA in support

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has launched a campaign asking cattle producers to submit public comments in support of federal dietary guidelines, which it says recognize beef’s role in a healthy diet.

NCBA says it has engaged with the dietary guidelines committee the past two years to ensure the dietary guidelines are focused on nutrition and based on sound science. NCBA says it supports the committee’s recommendations. It also says “Anti-meat advocates are already working to downplay the important role meat plays in these guidelines.”

“Study after study shows that beef plays an important role in a balanced, healthy diet across the lifespan,” said NCBA President Marty Smith. “NCBA has made it a priority to protect the scientific credibility of Dietary Guidelines and promote accurate information about the nutritional advantages of beef as part of a balanced diet.”

NCBA also said in a news release, “No process is perfect and NCBA believes there is room for improvement when the final guidelines are released later this year.”

The entire report can be downloaded from Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s homepage.


About the Author(s)

Alan Newport

Editor, Beef Producer

Alan Newport is editor of Beef Producer, a national magazine with editorial content specifically targeted at beef production for Farm Progress’s 17 state and regional farm publications. Beef Producer appears as an insert in these magazines for readers with 50 head or more of beef cattle. Newport lives in north-central Oklahoma and travels the U.S. to meet producers and to chase down the latest and best information about the beef industry.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like