Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the Final Advisory Report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a review of the latest science on nutrition, intended to develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In July 2019, we submitted comments to the Advisory Committee and last week submitted our comments regarding the committee’s final report.

We are pleased with the Advisory Committee’s commitment to science. The report maintains a continued emphasis on plant-based diets to support public health. The three Food Patterns highlighted in the Report- “Healthy – Vegetarian,” “Mediterranean,” and “U.S.”- share core components of obtaining energy from plant-based foods, which optimize and increase health at all life stages.

The Committee also found negative health outcomes associated with diets high in red and processed meats. We strongly agree with their recommendation that red meat and processed meat should be reduced in the American diet. Let’s hope the meat lobby does not strike this recommendation from the final guidelines, as they have in the past.

We are also happy to see the Committee’s scientifically backed findings that plant-based foods are rich in nutrients, and the newly identified importance of plant-based whole grains, now recognized as fundamental in a healthy diet.

While we stand by much of Committee’s report, PBFA submitted the following recommendations to the federal government to better serve institutions, federal food and nutrition programs, and the public:

  • Increased Plant-Based Options
    We suggest drafting an additional Appendix focused on sources of plant-based protein and dairy alternatives to fit into all three dietary patterns, encouraging the public to choose from a variety of healthier food and beverage choices.
  • Plant-Based Sources of Protein
    We also recommend that legumes as a protein source should be adopted not only for plant-based diets but for all eating patterns. Legumes are currently excluded as a protein source for Healthy U.S. and Mediterranean Patterns. This omission fails to recognize cultures that include legumes as their primary protein source and ignores the fact that, unlike meat, legumes are an excellent source of fibers associated with a lower risk of many common ailments.
  • Dairy Intake Not Supported by Science
    Disappointingly, the Committee continues to promote dairy as a Food Group. With an estimated 30-50 million Americans being lactose intolerant, this unscientific and culturally inappropriate recommendation disproportionally impacts communities of color. Fortified plant-based milks and foods are accessible, nutritious, and can provide more calcium and vitamin D than dairy. 
  • Sustainability
    While the Committee concluded that plant-based diets were associated with a lower environmental impact in 2015, we were disappointed to see this ignored in the final guidelines and not at all addressed in the 2020 advisory report.

As we’ve shown in our retail data, plant-based foods are increasingly in demand for health, environmental, cultural, and ethical reasons. A shift towards plant-based eating is fundamental for lowering disease and increasing health.

As the Report moves to its final stages – establishing guidelines for the next five years –the government cannot allow politics to prevent us from building objective, evidence-based guidance that promotes the health of the American people. We will continue to advocate for plant-based foods and their unique role in healthy diets.