Your chance to weigh in on federal dietary guidelines is here – but not for long

Courtesy MyPlate.gov

WASHINGTON — The guidelines that influence how Americans eat are up for review, and for the first time the people who make them are looking for your input.

Sally Squires, who writes the Lean Plate Club™ blog, told WTOP on Tuesday that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans comes up for review and changes every five years, with the next update coming in 2020.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture take turns overseeing the process, convening an expert committee to look at scientific evidence and make changes to the guidelines, Squires said. (It’s the USDA’s turn this year.)

In 2015, Congress asked the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine to review how the guidelines are made, looking, among other things, for more transparency. So this time around, the process is being changed from the ground up.

Two important changes have already been made: Since they were established in 1980, the guidelines have applied to healthy Americans age 2 and up. For the first time, the next set of guidelines will address how pregnant women and those under age 2 should eat.

And for the first time since 1980, the public has a chance to comment on the guidelines.

“Here’s your chance” to influence the process, Squires said; “It’s really a great opportunity.” Should the guidelines include more material on added sugars or salt? How about guides for seafood? And what about vegetarian diets? The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is looking for public input on these questions and more.

Among other things, the guidelines serve as the cornerstone for federal nutrition programs, including school lunches. They also serve as a resource health professionals nationwide. You probably know them as either the food pyramid or the MyPlate guide.

“The guidelines are extremely important,” Squires said, “and they really affect you day by day, but you probably don’t know it.”

You can submit comments online until 11:59 p.m. March 30.

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