Making Every Bite Count

March is National Nutrition Month so what better time to look again at the new USDA Dietary Guidelines that encourage us to Make Every Bite Count! What does that mean, exactly, in terms of healthier eating? It's spelled out in one of the important new guidelines that says we should work to "focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits.”

Here's how to break that down and see you're meeting that goal:

Say you're in the average range of most adult Americans and need approximately 2,000 calories a day. According to the new USDA recommendation, 85 percent of those calories - 1700 of them - should be dedicated to meeting food group recommendations, and should be healthful, nutrient-dense foods. That leaves 15%, or just 300 calories a day, for discretionary eating. Think of discretionary eating like you do the more familiar term "discretionary spending" - that small part of your budget that you might tuck away to spend on the fun things. Discretionary eating is for added sugars, saturated fat, alcohol and portions of refined grains beyond the healthy limits.

This is why it's so important to build your diet around nutrient-dense foods - defined as those that provide needed nutrients without excess calories. And on the whole, Americans are not doing a very good job at that - just over 56% of us consistently consume a diet in line with the recommended Dietary Guidelines, according to the most recent Healthy Eating Index. Those with the overall lowest score in the HEI? Teens ages 14-18; only 51% of people in this age category are hitting the mark.

Take a look at this USDA chart that summarizes the 2020 Dietary Guidelines. Good Food Nutrition Group dietitians would be happy to help you figure out how to make these work for you and your family.

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