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Dietary Guidelines

Children in lunchroom

Guiding American Diets

Cover of Dietary Guidelines for AmericansThe Dietary Guidelines for Americans are the official recommendations of the federal government about how Americans should eat. Federal programs, including school meals, are required to align with the current version of the Dietary Guidelines, which could affect the foods served in those programs.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans increase their intake of low-fat and fat-free dairy products to reach three servings of dairy for adults, two and one-half servings of dairy for children between the ages of four and eight and two servings for children ages two and three.

The number of servings for children four to eight years of age was increased from the previous two servings a day. The Guidelines also highlight foods and nutrients that American's should limit, including sodium, solid fats (such as saturated fat and trans fat), cholesterol and added sugars. To help curb the obesity epidemic and improve health, the Guidelines encourage people to consume nutrient-rich foods, decrease calorie intake and increase physical activity.

"The recommendation that individuals should increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, as part of a healthy eating plan is a very positive message for the dairy industry," said Cary Frye, IDFA vice president for regulatory and scientific affairs. "The new guidance provides a framework for healthy eating that limits sodium, saturated fat and added sugars in the daily diet, but still provides for many dairy products options."

Dairy Foods Provide Nutrients of Concern

Dairy foods are some of the top sources of calcium, vitamin D and potassium, which are identified by the Dietary Guidelines as nutrients of concern in the American diet. The Guidelines stress the importance of nutrient-rich foods, defined as foods without added sugar and with low levels of sodium and solid fat. For practical implementation, fat-free chocolate milk is mentioned as an example of a good way of using added sugar to increase the palatability and consumption of a nutrient-rich food. Another recommendation encourages a gradual switch to lower-fat versions of dairy products, which would include fluid milk, yogurt and cheese.

Through research and innovation, IDFA members are providing products such as lower-sodium and reduced-fat cheeses and flavored milk and yogurts with less added sugar that are easy to find in the marketplace.

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