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U.S. Seeks Public Opinion for 2020 Dietary Guidelines

The federal government is taking public comment on upcoming changes to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services release a new edition of the guidelines every five years and the next will release in 2020. The guidelines act as a general recommendation for healthy eating. They affect school lunches, child care, nutrition labels and all federal nutrition programs.

Susan Mills-Gray, the statewide nutrition specialist at MU Extension, said public comments are important.

“These guidelines have really been set in place to support healthy dietary intake and healthy lifestyle of American citizens,” she said. “And because these are set in place for you and I, we have the right to have that input back.”

The guidelines usually apply to the general U.S. population. According to the USDA website, the 2020 guidelines will include more specific life stages like infants, pregnant women and older adults.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also serve as a foundation for education on nutrition. The current USDA program, MyPlate, is used to teach Americans about the food groups and healthy eating. MyPlate could change or be revised in 2020 under the new guidelines.

Mills-Gray said the guidelines are important partly because they educate people who do not understand the science of nutrition.

“The pictorial tools that we have such as MyPlate are truly designed to be able to help the American citizen look at this information, take in the main concepts and be able to apply that to their life in practical terms,” she said.

Laina Fullum, director of nutrition services for Columbia Public Schools, said MyPlate and the 2015 guidelines have been good for students and hopes that’s true in 2020.

“I really like the way our menus have shaped up,” she said. “I think that students’ exposure to things like legumes, lower fat options and lower sodium options has been overall positive.”

Fullum said she would like to see different caloric standards based on age and activity in 2020. She said high school athletes may not be getting enough to eat under the current guidelines.

Public comments can be made through the USDA website until March 30.