Module 4: Dietary Guidelines


Evaluating the quality of an individual’s or population’s diet can be done in a number of ways. This module focuses on a number of concepts related to collecting, developing and using standards for evaluating diets. In particular we will explore the processes by which the commonly used standards were developed and then we will highlight the social, political and historical factors involved in their development and use. As nutritional anthropologists these issues are critical as we attempt to evaluate and examine dietary practices with a cross cultural perspective.


1. To learn about the U.S. dietary recommendations.
2. To understand and interpret dietary recommendations and to be able to critically evaluate the information they are based on.
3. To explore and understand the historical, cultural and political factors which influence the development of dietary guidelines and beliefs about what constitutes a healthy diet.
4. To compare the dietary guidelines used in different societies and explore how they are influenced by other cultures.
5. To be able to understand your personal eating practices and analyze the nutritional composition of your diet.

The goals of this part of the module/project are:

  • To help you evaluate the nutritional content of the foods you eat
  • To give you an broader perspective on the relative quality of your own diet.

Module 4 – Assignment

The U.S. Dietary Recommendations and The Nutritional Composition of Your Diet
I. Dietary Guidelines Activity – Week 3 Assignment
A. Historical Development of Dietary Guidelines:

Work with your group:

  1. Review the representations of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines which are provided (Gallery A).
  2. Answer the following questions after you compare the guidelines.


  1. Using the information provided on the historical development of the dietary guidelines fill in the missing information on the chart (Table 1. – see below and in your folder). (Group assignment: hand in during class)
  2. With your group write a brief report explaining the major changes in the food guides from 1916 through 1995. This will be discussed in class and handed in as a group assignment at end of class.
  3. The philosophical goals for the development of a good food guide are that it should: a) address overall health; b) be based on up-to date research; c) address total diet;  d) be useful;  e) be realistic; f) be flexible; g) be practical; and h) be evolutionary. Write a short issue statement indicating whether you believe the current U.S. Guidelines meet these goals? Support your answer. (Approximately 1 page). Due on next class or TBA. Individual assignment

B. Cross Cultural Comparison This Part of The Assignment May be done in Week 5 –
Review the representations of the International Dietary Guidelines (Gallery B) (Gallery B2).
1. Working with your group review the pictures of the guidelines from the various countries. Group Assignment

  • Discuss the major similarities and differences you see in the representations. In particular pay attention to groupings, shapes, quantities etc.
  • What do you think accounts for the similarities and differences?

II. Your Dietary Evaluation:

1. The instructor will provide direction and information for analyzing your diet from the Food Processor.
2. Answer the following questions after you complete you evaluation of your diet.

Instruction for using Food Processor SQL

Sample 1 Day Record

Activity Sheet – Keeping a Dietary Record

A. Individual Activity: Review & Due in class on 4/17 /13 (If not completed: Due 4/24/13). .
Using the software package: Food Processor analyze your food record according to the Comparison Bar Graph nutrient composition method and the MyPlate method.

1. How do the methods of evaluation compare? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Which do you prefer? Why? (Remember you should only analyze one day at a time)

2. Evaluate the overall nutritional quality and adequacy of a three day sample of your own diet, compared to  the Recommendations for you suggested in the Food Processor SQL.  You can use different reports just clearly indicate which ones you used and include them with your paper. You may not be able to include copies of the single nutrient analysis if you use that report.(~2 typed pages + copies of computer printouts and diet records ).

  • What proportion of your total calories came from fat? protein? carbohydrates?
  • Which of your foods was the most “nutritious” (i.e. contained the most nutrients/calories), and which the least (“empty” calories)? (You may need to do this part of the assignment by using the spread sheet option – DO NOT PRINT THE DATA)
  • Do you see any nutritional pattern to your diet data that might be unhealthy if you ate like this all the time? Why? (e.g. too much of some nutrient or calories, or too little compared to your RDA from the Food Processor Program)
  • In general, how does your diet compare to the guidelines? How does your answer to question #1 differ from what you expected?
  • Other comments.

B. TENTATIVE Group Activity:(TBA)

You have been asked to be part of an expert panel for the Food and Nutrition Board and National Academy of Sciences. The purpose of the committee is to evaluate the state of the dietary and eating patterns of college students in the U.S. Using the information that is provided work in your group to develop an analysis of the “U. S. College Student.” Write a brief expert report in which you:

  1. provide a description of the eating habits
  2. provide an analysis of the nutritional quality of the diet
  3. develop a set of recommendations for improving or maintaining the diet as you have presented it.
  4. present your findings and recommendation to the Committee.
This activity is to be prepared as an issue statement. It should be clearly written and all the parts should be answered. You may divide the work among group members. Your answers will be discussed in class as well as turned in. Group Assignment.

Table 1. historical comparison of USDA food guidelines
Food Guide
Number of Food groups
Protein-rich foods (Milk/Meat)
Other (incl. Fats)
Caroline Hunt Buying guides
meat/other protein
10% cal
1 cup milk plus 2 – 3 svg other (based on 3 0z serving)
Vegetables and fruit
30% cal; 5 svg
(based on average 8 oz serving)
Butter – na
Other fats – na
Sugars – na
Basic 7
Butter, fortified margarine –
Some daily
1956 – 1970s
Basic 4
Hassle-Free foundation diet
Bread-cereal group – 4
(1 oz. Dry, 1 slice, ½ to 3/4 cup cooked)
fats, sweets, alchohol. Use dependent on calorie needs
Food Guide Pyramid
2002-2005 New Pyramid

tag –>

Notes – Introduction to Nutritional Anthropology

A. The U.S. dietary recommendations

Collecting Dietary Data

  1. Food frequency
  2. Twenty-four hour recall
  3. Food diary (3 day, 7 day)
  4. Food history
  5. Food weighing
  6. Larder survey

Standards for Evaluation

  • Nutrient Composition Analysis

Dietary Guidance: Philosophies and issues: 1995

  • RDA = recommended dietary allowances
  • Dietary Guidelines

RDAs- scientifically based reference standards for levels of intake of essential nutrients. specified by age, gender, and as appropriate, physiological state.

  • Represent upper end of range for estimate of range of individual requirements
  • Not intended for individual nutritional status evaluation
  • Between first RDA (1943) and 10th edition (1989) gone from 9 – 19 nutrients with tentative values for 7 others.

Limitations of RDAs

  1. too complex for nutrition education
  2. often misinterpreted as either requirements or minimal levels
  3. little emphasis on potential toxicity or safe upper levels
  4. not specific for older Americans

There is general agreement that new RDAs should:

  1. include separate category for healthy elderly
  2. include increases in folic acid, calcium and vitamin D for some older age and gender categories
  3. lower RDA for energy, protein and iron for some age groups
  4. be based on measures of physiologic function not deficiency disease

The IOM/ FNB Dietary Reference Intakes: read a report on line:

Dietary Guidelines:

Newest developments – 2011 revision

  • Review main 2011 recommendations (and changes from 2005)