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Influencing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015

By: Janet Leader, MPH, R.D. 

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), established jointly by the US Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, drives the policies behind federal food programs and nutrition education.   While many of us wish the DGA would be more specific, more progressive and a little less industry-influenced, this is what we have for now.  Before 1980, there were no national guidelines at all.

As a nutrition advocate, I asked the question:  how do we influence the next DGA in 2015?  This is the challenge I put to students in CHS 130, Nutrition and Health.

A little background:  Every five years, the DGA is reviewed and updated, a process that takes almost two years.  According to their website, the government “appoints a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) consisting of nationally recognized experts in the field of nutrition and health. The charge to the Committee is to review the scientific and medical knowledge current at the time. The Committee then prepares a report for the (HHS and USDA) Secretaries that provides recommendations for the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines …”

The DGAC provides a public comment website, open to everyone. This is how the students worked together to influence the next set of policies.  Working in small groups, they selected issues they felt passionate about and wrote opinion papers.  Topics included:

·  Requiring industry to fortify non-dairy milks (nut, soy, rice) sold in schools with vitamin D

·  Encouraging the promotion of vitamin D to African-American populations of child-bearing age

·  Establishing a behavioral strategies section in the DGA to provide helpful ways to implement recommendations

·  Requiring the integration of nutrition education into the national Common Core standards for education

·  Reducing sugar-sweetened items sold in schools, based on the California model

·  Using the DASH diet to influence food package labels

·  Adding water to the My Plate model

Over the next few months, you will see some abbreviated versions of these papers in the Eat Well blog.  Or, you can go to the DGA 2015 website to see them online.

Be on the lookout for the 2015 edition of the DGA to see if they were successful!

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