A Sustainable Plate in the 2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines

dietary guidelines
dietary guidelines

The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans get published every five years. The USDA released the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for the American diet to a flurry of buzz and critique among nutrition professionals, the food industry, and environmental and political groups. With all the opinions that fill the conversation about food recommendations for the public, it’s easy to lose sight of the overarching takeaways that the report provides. Citing science and research to support the latest dietary guidelines recommendations, the USDA encouraged the following key habits.

1. The USDA recommends a plant-based diet for optimal health

The report found that many Americans still lack the suggested amount of vegetables in their daily diets. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend that people incorporate more vegetables, fruits, and plant-based nutrients into their meals, which may encourage more people toward vegetarian and vegan options. Not only is this diet recommended on the basis of its health benefits, but it also promotes sustainable choices. The hope is that if more people choose environmentally friendly food options, more agribusiness and food companies will follow suit.

What this suggestion specifically points to is a diet that turns to legumes, beans, and seeds for protein, rather than relying on animal proteins. Of course, this part of the USDA’s report wasn’t met with open arms by the dairy and beef industries. It is also an interesting recommendation, in light of the huge popularity that the grain-free Paleo diet has experienced.

If you’re one of many Americans looking for ways to take this advice but you’re not sure how to creatively incorporate plant-based protein into your daily diet, we have some simple, effective suggestions. You don’t have to gnaw on raw broccoli to get your plant protein (though your body would probably be pumped if you did!). Try adding vegan, plant-based protein powders to smoothies, or mixing a small scoop into a quinoa dish. Two reliable, quality brands are RAW Protein and Nutrakey Vpro Raw Plant Protein. For lunch and dinner options, try lentil soups or veggie burgers, which are often made with black beans or even nut butter to improve texture and heartiness.

2. Coffee, in moderation, has positive health effects

Rejoice, coffee lovers! The USDA cited research consistently showing the advantages provided by moderate coffee consumption. Some of the most exciting benefits include a reduced chance of type 2 diabetes, lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and a diminished likelihood of Parkinson’s disease. Of course, the study also acknowledges that most coffee beverages in the U.S. are filled with artificial sweeteners and fattening ingredients. If you’re looking for a way to make your healthy morning coffee even healthier, check out these creative coffee drinks.

3. Water should be the beverage of choice

The USDA’s newest report is encouraging Americans to choose water as their main beverage. This is probably not shocking news to anyone today, but the USDA once recommended milk as a top nutritional beverage. In addition to shifting the spotlight to water, this report stressed the importance of making sure schools have fresh, clean water readily available to students (as part of the National School Lunch Program).

4. The USDA encourages reliable nutrition tracking through ChooseMyPlate.gov

Wearable technology has made it fun and easy for Americans to track their activity throughout the day. While fitness is an essential component of health, the USDA also recommends keeping a watch on nutrition, and they released ChooseMyPlate.gov to make the process easier. This tool provides a visual of the nutrients in your meals, breaking down your plate by fruits, grains, vegetables, and proteins.

5. Eat more fish

The USDA also encourages seafood consumption, specifically for its EPA and DHA components. This is another interesting recommendation, as environmental research has indicated that overfishing is putting fish populations at risk. Furthermore, the health components of farm-raised fish are hotly debated, as are the sustainable measures by which it is practiced. Regardless, the USDA finds that 2-3 servings of fish per week are part of an overall healthy diet.