The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are written for nutrition and health professionals, designed to offer guidance to Americans age 2 and older, and featuring strategies to help them consume a healthy and nutritionally-adequate diet.
The advice in the guidelines is great year-round, but sometimes it's nice to break everything down by season. Here's a closer look at a few ways you can maximize the impact of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans during the summer months.
Focus on Variety, Nutrient Density and Amount by Visiting Your Local Farmers' Market
Produce is often at its peak in summer farmers' markets, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a better collection of varied, nutrient-dense foods all in one place. Plus, the farmers are often super knowledgeable about the flavors, textures, and best ways to prepare their offerings, which makes the market a perfect place to try some new-to-you foods and add further variety to your eating pattern. Samples abound, which makes it still easier to try new foods until you find a few that you like.
Nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables are often the stars of farmers' markets, especially in the summertime, but whole grain, dairy, and protein offerings often make their way into the mix as well, which in turn makes a summer market the perfect place to play with all 5 of MyPlate's food groups.
Limit Added Sugars and Saturated Fats by Making Simple Summer Dessert Switches
Summer seems to scream "ice cream," but since this chilly dessert is often loaded with saturated fats and added sugars, it's also a good time to look for healthful alternatives that reduce both. After all, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise people to "Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium."
To reduce saturated fat, replace ice cream with sorbet or gelato, both of which have much less saturated fat than traditional ice cream. You'll get all the cool sweetness, without the artery-clogging side effects.
To cut down on added sugars too, take things a step further and replace your ice cream with homemade fruit granitas or sorbet that has only been made with fruit juice. Popsicles that are sweetened with 100% fruit are also great treats for hot days.
For the most healthful dessert option, replace ice cream with whole, frozen fruit, like grapes or berries. You'd be surprised at how popular these options can be, especially when presented with a little flair.
Support Healthy Eating Patterns for Everyone by Offering Healthful Foods at your Next Barbecue or Summer Party
The last bit of advice from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans focuses on building healthier communities. You can do your part by making the foods you offer at your next summer party healthful and nourishing, rather than calorie-dense and loaded with saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium.
For recipe inspiration, check out the members-only recipe database, which has over 1,000 chef-tested recipes that are both tasty and healthful.
You can also consider a few of the switches below...
- Instead of appetizer plates that rely on cheeses and cured meats, put out a series of fruit and vegetable centerpieces for everyone to enjoy.
- If you're grilling, skip the burgers and brats and try salmon instead.
- Replace calorie- and sodium-dense sides like potato salad and French fries with grilled veggies and fresh salads.
- Serve fresh fruit for dessert. For a compelling presentation, try a watermelon cake or chocolate-covered strawberries.
So, how will you make the most of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans this summer?
PS: Because I love ya, I'm adding the popular printable handout 7 Remarkable Summer Fruit Desserts to this post for free. I hope you like it!
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Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.