USDA & Nutrition

The USDA is responsible for letting you know how to fill a healthy plate.

The USDA is responsible for letting you know how to fill a healthy plate.

The United States Department of Agriculture, along with the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for setting dietary guidelines for Americans over the age of 2. The USDA also provides nutrition assistance to millions of Americans through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Dietary Guidelines

The nutritional guidelines set forth by the USDA and the HHS are evidence-based findings used to promote healthy eating among Americans. A Dietary Guidelines Committee is responsible for revising the guidelines every five years. According to the current guidelines, a healthy diet is plant-based and rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Saturated and trans fats and sodium intake should be kept to a minimum. A healthy weight is best met by balancing caloric intake with physical activity.

Food Groups

In 2010, the Food Pyramid was replaced by the MyPlate visual aide. Both were based upon the idea of dividing the foods you consume into groups -- five to be exact. These groups consist of fruit, vegetables, proteins, dairy and grains. The MyPlate scheme meant to help Americans plan their meals. According to MyPlate, half your plate at mealtime should comprise fruits and vegetables, one-quarter should comprise lean protein and one-quarter should comprise grains, preferably whole grains. The glass of milk on the side represents the serving of dairy recommended with each meal.

Eat Healthy, Be Active Community Workshops

The USDA has also put together a series of workshops based on their Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Each of the six workshops is designed for educators and dietitians or nutritionists to educate their community about the basics of a healthy diet and exercise. Each workshop includes a lesson plan, videos and handouts. The USDA workshops cover nutrition topics ranging from enjoying healthy food on a budget to making quick meals and snacks. Eating well to lose weight is also covered, along with making healthy eating a part of your lifestyle and how to be active your way.

The SNAP Program

In 2011, more than 50 million Americans received assistance from SNAP, also commonly referred to as “food stamps.” SNAP became a vital resource for many American families in the U.S. after the calamitous downturn of the economy in recent years. Over 50 percent of food stamps, a critical tool for helping feed low-income populations, go to children and the elderly.

 

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