By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: Nearly two weeks have gone by since the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s report. Personally, I thought it wouldn’t hurt for a bit of time to pass by before posting my own thoughts on the new guidelines since so much discussion on them has already occurred.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, like this fresh broccoli, should be a big part of what's on your plate. 

I confess that I believe some of this discussion we conduct on dietary guidelines we make too complicated. But then I can certainly be criticized for not having the required expertise to even have an opinion on this issue. I accept that concern. But, I celebrate the food American farmers and ranchers produce, have been an industry participant and I now promote the very industry most suitable for providing the wonderfully balanced American diet we should all have and more than anyone on the planet can benefit from and have access to regardless of what one says about how Americans eat today. (Disclaimer: my paycheck comes from Arizona Farm Bureau; but that’s the only paycheck I get.)

So, I weigh in with the rest of them, qualified or not.

I agree with American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman that it’s good when sound science drives policy (remember my paycheck comes from Arizona Farm Bureau, not American). He recently said regarding the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, “Science must drive policy that feeds people all over the world, so we applaud the advisory board for its notable contributions to public health. We appreciate the breadth and depth of knowledge that they bring to the important process of refining and reviewing nutrition guidelines.”

After all, they are the experts. It’s good to note that they’re independent of the USDA, the governmental organization that promotes the guidelines once new ones are brought forth.

But then Stallman’s note of caution appears and I can’t help but agree. “We are, however, concerned that the report’s lengthy foray into sustainability issues goes well beyond both the group’s expertise and its clearly defined mission,” he said. “Its conclusions would have benefitted from the contributions of agronomists, animal scientists, ecologists and others with deeper expertise in agriculture and sustainability. The report makes many good observations about the need for a balanced diet, but we are troubled that it also repeats alarmist and unsubstantiated assertions about land use first promulgated by a UN agency with scant agricultural understanding. These assertions contradict the views of the UN’s own agricultural experts and fly in the face of decades of scientific consensus. The overall guidelines also ignore easier and more effective ways ordinary Americans can reduce their carbon footprints.”

He’s not the only “aggie” voice sharing concerns. And while one might fault the agriculture community for being defensive, it is interesting that if “experts” are what we religiously advocate for any newly released set of guidelines on anything then let’s draw on those that have the expertise. Especially since the dietary recommendations go to issues of sustainability.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association goes as far as to suggest the dietary guidelines are misleading. Their recent statement shares some strong “expert” voices to this point.

Let “The Basics” Be Your Dietary Guide

I always say, if any one diet is too confusing and you’re not certain by any or the latest dietary guidelines, stick to the basics. When we visit with Arizona families, Arizona Farm Bureau always advocates the following.

  1. Eat a healthy mix of fresh fruits and vegetables and lots of them. If you can go for one half to two thirds of your plate being fruits and vegetables then celebrate.
  2. Focus on whole grains too when choosing your grains, bread and cereals.
  3. A mix of meat proteins whether beef, lamb, pork, chicken or fish, should be part of your diet. Even beef today has more than 30 cuts identified as lean beef. American beef producers raise healthy, lean beef. We should eat it.
  4. Keep eggs in your diet. One of the most economical forms of protein comes to us packaged by the dozen. Eggs are extremely versatile and should be regularly consumed.
  5. Dairy is another basic diet item to keep on the menu. Cheese, yogurt and milk contribute calcium, protein, energy and other nutrients we need in our diet.
  6. Watch portion size.
  7. Reduce sugar intake. If we treat sweets as a special occasion indulgence, we’ll appreciate that piece of chocolate or cheese cake even more.
  8. Buy fresh, avoid processed.

You’ll note that over the years, Arizona Farm Bureau has focused on the wonderful array of agriculture products our state grows and raises. Well, of course we would, we’re Arizona Agriculture and we want you to fill your plate with this wonderful mix of farm and ranch products. And most importantly, because they are good for us.

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