Diet and Health: It’s the Pattern that’s Important

August 29, 2022
Heather Eicher-Miller

The new semester marks a change in our daily routines and a new chance to improve our health for the long term. 

Starting a new schedule gives us an opportunity to consider when and what we will eat and drink, how active we are, and how much we will sleep. Even though the schedule of each day of the week may vary, the routines we carry out over the long term will impact many things about our health like our nutrient status, the way our body will process nutrients, heart rate, blood pressure, body mass index, and ultimately, our ability to stay healthy in the short and long-term. 

Thinking about our lives 20 or 40 years from now may seem far away, but the patterns we live in now will impact whether we, like so many Americans, will have heart disease or cancer as older adults. These diseases are the top causes of death for US adults, but the silver lining is that we can reduce our chances of getting these major diseases by following healthy dietary patterns throughout our lives. 

Dietary Guidelines showing division of food groups on a plate.The recommendations described in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are backed by strong scientific evidence that supports their link to preventing these and other leading and underlying causes of US adult death. Finding ways to make your new fall routine align better with the Dietary Guidelines recommendations will help you to stay healthier this fall and in the future.  Here are some of the main recommendations:

  1. Try to make half of the foods you eat at each meal fruits and vegetables
  2. Also, try to make half of the grains you eat at each meal whole grains
  3. Keep sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg on a daily basis
  4. Limit added sugars and saturated fat to less than 10% of your daily calories
  5. Keep alcoholic beverages to 1 drink a day or less for women and 2 drinks or less a day for men   
  6. Choose a variety of foods from all of the food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat dairy, and protein)

Key References

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Leading Causes of Death. Available at FastStats - Leading Causes of Death ( Accessed on Aug 2022.

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at Accessed on Aug 2022.

Heather A. Eicher-Miller is an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition Science in the College of Health and Human Sciences. Eicher-Miller is a nutrition epidemiologist experienced in dietary patterning and assessment, focused on improving food security among low-resource populations. Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week!

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