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What is a Healthy Dietary Pattern?
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Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, and Jennifer Fleming, MS, RD  

Department of Nutritional Sciences, Pennsylvania State University

The focus of contemporary dietary guidance is now on healthy food-based dietary patterns as opposed to an emphasis on individual nutrients. While individual nutrients still are very important (such as saturated fat and sodium), new guidance is being issued that features healthy dietary patterns that meet goals for individual nutrients to achieve a nutritionally adequate diet, and to achieve targets for nutrients that are associated with reduced risk of many chronic diseases. 

Three healthy dietary patterns have been recommended by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report that was released in February 2015. This report is informational to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that are expected to be released later in 2015. The three healthy dietary patterns are as follows:

-the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern

-the Healthy Mediterranean-Style Pattern

-the Healthy Vegetarian Pattern

These dietary patterns have many similarities, including being higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in alcohol (for adults who consume alcohol); lower in red and processed meat; low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks; and low in refined grains. The table below provides food-based guidance about implementation of the three healthy dietary patterns that have been recommended.

For most Americans, these recommendations translate into increasing consumption of plant foods, shifting to lean protein foods and non-fat/low-fat dairy products and increasing liquid vegetable oils at the expense of solid fats. In addition, whole grains should replace refined grains and added sugars should be reduced by close to 50%.

Achieving a healthy dietary pattern need not be difficult. A sensible strategy is to incorporate the recommended foods in the diet in place of those that are problematic for health (such as empty calories from added sugars and solid fats as well as refined grains). As the table below conveys, there are options for building a healthy dietary pattern that works for you! 

 

Food group           Healthy U.S.-style pattern Healthy vegetarian pattern  Healthy Mediterranean-style pattern 
 Fruit  2 c. per day  2 c. per day  2.5 c. per day
 Vegetables  2.5 c. per day  2.5 c. per day  2.5 c. per day
   -Legumes  1.5 c. per week  3 c. per week  1.5 c. per week
 Whole grains  3 oz. eq. per day  3 oz. eq. per day  3 oz. eq. per day
 Dairy  3 c. per day  3 c. per day  2 c. per day
 Protein foods  5.5 oz. eq. per day  3.5 oz. eq. per day  6.5 oz. eq. per day
   -Meat  12.5 oz. eq. per week  --  12.5 oz. eq. per week
   -Poultry  10.5 oz. eq. per week  --  10.5 oz. eq. per week
   -Seafood  8 oz. eq. per week  --  15 oz. eq. per week
   -Eggs  3 oz. eq. per week  3 oz. eq. per week  3 oz. eq. per week
   -Nuts/seeds  4 oz. eq. per week  7 oz. eq. per week  4 oz. eq. per week

   -Processed soy

 0.5 oz. eq. per week  8 oz. eq. per week  0.5 oz. eq. per week
 Oils  27 g. per day  27 g. per day  27 g. per day

 

References:

Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Available online at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/

DGAC 2015. Food Pattern Modeling Report: Appendix E-3.7. Developing Vegetarian and Mediterranean-Style Food Patterns 

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