The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a set of recommendations on healthy eating that gets updated by the federal government every five years. The document is supposed to be based on the latest nutrition research and serves as a critical evidence-based tool for policy makers and health professionals. The Guidelines can have a significant impact because they often form the basis of federal nutrition policy and programs such as school food. Last week, PBFA submitted comments on the topics and scientific questions to help shape the 2020 update to the Guidelines. Learn more about the process here.
It should come as no surprise that PBFA believes the Guidelines should support a healthier diet by recommending increased consumption of plant-based foods. The 2015 Guidelines already identified a Vegetarian eating pattern as healthful and makes suggestions on how to modify for a vegan diet. Even though this Vegetarian Pattern exists, we suggest adding an additional Appendix specifically for a Vegan/Plant-Based Pattern to eliminate confusion on the need for dairy and eggs. This will encourage the public to choose from a variety of healthier plant-based food options.
In addition, we know that simply giving advice is not enough. Making plant-based foods more available and accessible is critical to ensuring healthy eating habits. Therefore, we propose adding the topic, “Social-Ecological Factors to Encourage Healthy Eating Patterns” to explore questions such as: What are effective behavioral, food environment, and policy interventions that can encourage and support increased consumption of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, whole grains, nuts, and seeds as part of a healthy diet? By exploring social factors as previous Guidelines and committees have, we can change our policies and food environment to support eating more healthful plant-based foods.
Our submission was included in this Food Navigator round-up called Stakeholders square up for battle over scope of 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Find us right after the milk lobby and cattle lobby’s input.)
Thanks to PBFA nutrition advisor Sherene Chou for helping to draft our letter and this blog post.