March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Making the right food and nutrition choices is a necessary part of daily life — but finding the best and most accurate information can be confusing. However, it is possible to develop a plan for healthy eating, and plans that emphasize a balance of foods — such as those based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans — can promote positive lifestyle changes. An understanding of what is in the food we eat is essential for allowing all foods to fit into an eating plan — as long as they are consumed in moderation and combined with regular physical activity.
Research studies and breaking news about food and nutrition appear in headlines almost every day. With so many changes, it can be difficult to tell which recommendations are based on strong scientific evidence, and which are simply marketing materials. Registered dietitian nutritionists are food and nutrition experts, translating the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living. Various tools are available to help meet the goal of a healthy weight. Among these is the Body Mass Index, which can be used as a screening tool to identify potential health problems.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are issued and updated every five years by the U.S. government and provide authoritative advice about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases. The guidelines are jointly published by the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services and are developed with the substantial input of registered dietitian nutritionists.
What is MyPlate?
MyPlate is designed to help individuals follow the key recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, providing practical information to individuals, health professionals, nutrition educators and the food industry to help consumers build healthier diets with resources and tools for dietary assessment, nutrition education, and other user-friendly nutrition information. The online resources and tools can empower people to make healthier food choices for themselves, their families and their children.
The food label is a key tool for locating and evaluating the nutritional content of the foods and beverages you purchase. Food labels provide you with:
- Nutrition information about almost every packaged or processed food you'll find in a grocery store.
- A distinctive, easy-to-read Nutrition Facts panel that enables you to quickly find the information you need to make healthful food choices. In 2016, the FDA announced updated requirements for Nutrition Facts panels.
- Information on the amount per serving of saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, cholesterol, sodium and other nutrients of major health concern.
- Nutrient reference values, expressed as % Daily Values, which help you see how a specific food fits into your overall daily diet.
- Uniform definitions for terms that describe a food's nutrient content — such as "light," "low-fat" and "high-fiber" — to ensure that such terms mean the same for any product on which they appear.
- Standardized serving sizes that make nutritional comparisons of similar products easier.