Building a Healthy Eating Pattern

The 2015-2020 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was recently released and there has been a shift in the recommendations from a concentration on individual nutrients to a focus on a generally healthy eating pattern. But what exactly is an “eating pattern”?

An eating pattern is the summative intake of all food eaten in combination over time. Because individual nutrients are not eaten in isolation, their interaction with other nutrients in a variety of food combinations can affect our health, both positively and negatively, depending on our food choices. The guidelines recommend that we shift to a healthy eating pattern in order to maintain optimal health and reduce disease risk. Follow these tips to achieve a healthy eating pattern:

Tip #1: All foods fit, within the limits.

A healthy eating pattern is one that follows the main tenets of the guidelines; a mostly plant-based diet, high in fiber, low in fat, and moderate in lean protein and dairy. Following this pattern without exceeding limits, such as those set on sodium, saturated fats, and added sugar, allows all foods to be included in a healthy eating pattern.  Moderation, variety, and balance are key.

Tip #2: Get nutrients from food. The guidelines also recommend that we get our nutrients primarily from nutrient-dense foods.  Nutrient-dense foods contain essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, and little or no solid fats or added sugars. These nutrients can occur naturally or be fortified, like citrus and vitamin C (naturally), and whole grain bread and iron (fortified).

Let’s shift our focus from individual nutrients to a healthy eating pattern. A healthy eating pattern can meet our nutritional needs, help us reach healthy weights, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

By Beth Rosen, MS, RD, CDN

“Copyright foodandhealth.com, reprinted with permission”

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