Small Shifts

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The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) encourage us to “shift to healthier food and beverage choices.” We make choices about what to eat and drink every day. Each choice is a chance to shift to a healthier option. Over time, these small shifts will move you toward a healthy eating pattern.

The DGA looks at the typical American diet -- What We Eat in America (WWEIA) -- and identifies strategies for shifting to an eating pattern that promotes overall health and helps prevent chronic disease.

Small Shifts in Food Groups:

WWEIA: Three out of four Americans don’t eat the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and oils. We eat too many refined grains and not enough whole grains. Intake of meat, poultry, and eggs is also high among men and teenage boys.

Shifts: To get to a healthy eating pattern, most Americans need to shift to more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, seafood, and oils; and shift away from refined grains and solid fats.

Examples of Food Group Shifts:

  • Fruit & cereal bar to a whole piece of fruit
  • Tortilla chips with cheese sauce to carrots with hummus
  • Can of soda at lunch to fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Steak to grilled salmon
  • Ranch dressing to oil & vinegar salad dressing

Small Shifts in Nutrients of Concern:

WWEIA: By not eating enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy products, we are at risk for low intake of calcium, potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D. These are key nutrients that are related to health concerns.

Shifts: The good news is that most of the shifts mentioned above will result in a healthy eating pattern that provides all the nutrients you need for overall health.

Small Shifts in Beverages:

WWEIA: Almost 20 percent of our total calorie intake comes from beverages. Sugar-sweetened drinks account for 35 percent of calories from beverages. These are calories without any nutrients.

Shift: When choosing beverages, it’s important to consider the calories and nutrients they may provide. Shift to beverages that are calorie-free — especially water — or that contribute beneficial nutrients, such as fat-free and low-fat milk and 100% juice.

By Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

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