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New Recommendations for American Diet and Their Impact on School Health

Catherine is a senior communications professional helping social change organizations tell their story in powerful ways. She has expertise in public health, environmental stewardship, philanthropy and education. Follow her on Twitter @CatBrozena

There’s been a fair amount of swirl going on in the food and nutrition scene recently, more so in the last few weeks since the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released their recommendations for updating the nation’s Dietary Guidelines.

The Dietary Guidelines are important in that they set a standard by which government officials set policy about everything from food assistance funding to school meals to the nutrition labels on food packaging. Remember the food pyramid? Familiar with MyPlate? They represent ways that the USDA tries to visually help us understand the federal dietary guidelines and put them into practice.

The swirl of commentary particularly relevant in a time when many people are becoming more tuned in to their own personal health and eating habits and that of their kids and families. The obesity epidemic has taught us to be more alert to the predominance of sugar, salt and fat in our American diets; the powerful forces of big marketing that influence what we eat; and the unhealthful effects of relying too heavily on an industrialized food system.

The Dietary Guidelines have to be updated every five years, and it’s a good thing, what with new research coming forth all the time about what is good for us or not-so-good for us.

National Nutrition Month: be in the know

2013-MW-PFGK0013_KaiserPS_HiResMarch has been designated as National Nutrition Month by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. So, whether you’re a school food employee, a parent, a teacher or just have an interest in healthy eating, now’s a great time to dive in to some of the conversation going on around food and nutrition.

The latest set of recommendations has garnered considerable conversation around issues of sustainability and food, cholesterol, meat intake and the need for better limits around added sugar.

Here’s a couple of articles you might want to check out.

  • Visit’s page for a full background on how the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans work and to provide your own commentary on the recommendations made before they get solidified.
  • Anna Almendrala provides a nice overview of what the new recommendations are for the federal dietary guidelines and some of the commentary it’s elicited from folks in food and research in her Huffington Post piece.
  • Mark Bittman, nutrition, agriculture and food policy opinion writer for the New York Times, offers his always-insightful perspectives on the Dietary Guidelines in his piece, “How Should We Eat?”
  • Kaiser Permanente’s Food for Health blog offers up a great Q & A with Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food and public health at New York University and one of the country’s most is a powerful voices for consumers’ rights around what we put in our bodies.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee expects to wrap up its process by the end of the year with a formal set of national Dietary Guidelines that are sure to influence the hotly debated politics of school nutrition standards. Let’s hope that what plays out is a solid set of recommendations that support strong standards for nutrition in school meals and that food politics doesn’t diminish the bottom line. As we’ve said before, healthy school meals support healthier kids. The next generation needs us all to stand strong in making sure school kids get the nutrition they need to be at their very best.

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