Every five years, the federal government releases updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans, making recommendations on servings for the various food groups. Milk and dairy products continue to be an important entity in a healthy diet. These guidelines aim to prevent and/or reduce overweight and obesity through improved eating and physical activity behaviors. Because more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, the 7th edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.

The new guidelines emphasize a total diet approach, urging consumers to reduce calories, watch serving sizes, make nutrient-rich food choices (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat and reduced fat dairy products), and to be more physically active. It is important to remember that what works for someone is not going to work exactly the same for the person standing next to them, but the concept applies to all.

Here are key messages for consumers:

Balancing Calories
• Enjoy your food, but eat less.
• Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase
• Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk.

Foods to Reduce
• Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and choose meals with the lower numbers.
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

The updated guidelines suggest three servings for milk or dairy products for those over the age of 9. Currently, Americans are falling short; they are consuming just two servings of dairy per day. Unfortunately, that translates to 85 percent of Americans not consuming the minimum intake of dairy in their daily diets. Imagine the dairy consumption if this 85 percent increased their milk and dairy products to the recommended level? That is a huge increase in demand for our natural and healthful product.

Milk and dairy are included in these new guidelines, not only for their nutritional value, but for its health benefits such as reducing risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, as well as lowering blood pressure in adults. The health benefits of milk are numerous and those that we need to remember to share with others include those nine essential nutrients for good health, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins D, A, and B12, riboflavin and niacin.

Milk and dairy products are certainly value-packed with its wide availability at supermarkets, affordability (about a quarter per glass), and complete nutrition; it is an all-brainer for a healthy body and mind!

For more information and tips to incorporate more dairy in the diet, visit www.nationaldairycouncil.org. USDA's website includes the press releases on the guidelines, along with nutrition information every food science instructor, parent and consumer should read and contemplate before making food purchasing choices. See the complete data.