Both Gains and Pains with Updated Nutrition Guidelines

Boy Milking CowWe’ve seen a lot of gains in the quality of nutrition guidelines this month. Gains in aligning guidelines for the WIC program (nutrition for women, infants, and children) and school meals with U.S. dietary guidelines are something that most nutrition experts are praising. Yet even with those gains, come certain pains in dealing with their constraints.

More Fruits and Vegetables

For the WIC program, the good news is an increased emphasis on fruits and vegetables. The new rules for WIC provide a permanent increase in allowances of vegetables for women and children.

Annie Stone, a mother of three in Michigan, told APM Marketplace this is the best thing about these changes:

“I love that part of the program. The ease of navigating that money is awesome.”

Less Sugar and Salt at School

The new guidelines for school meals will mean less sugar and salt in those meals. The final guidance is not as strong as the initial proposal in 2023, but it is still a step forward. Just about everyone is on board with the cap on added sugar. The grumbles are mainly about standards for whole grains and sodium that were not as strong as some had hoped.

Gallons of Low-Fat Milk?

There’s still an artifact of the low-fat 80s that hangs on in all of these guidelines. Low-fat milk and dairy. For the Michigan mom, Annie Stone, it’s an annoying aspect of WIC that presents her with a challenge: how to use seven gallons of low-fat milk. She says:

“Who really wants skim milk? I don’t know anybody who drinks skim milk.

“I have been making yogurt with it, but you have to add heavy cream to it. We get that from a local farm.”

For the whole milk that her family will actually drink, she pays out of pocket.

The persistent, questionable fear of whole milk sticks to these dietary guidelines like a stubborn stain. We hold out hope that the 2025 guidelines will fix this anachronism. One of the systematic reviews for next year’s guidelines asks, “What is the relationship between food sources of saturated fat consumed and risk of cardiovascular disease?” We can hope that this will bring new insight to inform the new guidelines.

Meanwhile, we do have meaningful gains in nutrition guidelines for WIC and school meals. They’re not perfect or painless, but this is good news nonetheless.

Click here, here, here, and here for more on these updates.

Boy Milking Cow, painting by Grant Wood / WikiArt

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April 25, 2024

2 Responses to “Both Gains and Pains with Updated Nutrition Guidelines”

  1. April 25, 2024 at 7:08 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Thank you, Ted–this is a helpful summary of how this process is unfolding and its impacts.

    And on dairy, I can’t remember if you ever did a post on this piece from last year in The Atlantic?


    • April 25, 2024 at 7:11 am, Ted said:

      Fascinating story and on the list of things that I wanted to write but never got around to.