Responding to the USDA Dietary Food Guidelines

By on April 23, 2015

Every 5 years, the USDA takes on the huge task of revising its guidelines for Americans to promote healthy eating.  Needless to say,  the forces of big business,  big ag, and big pharma put their oar in the water and make many comments.  You can read their comments here as well as submit your own.  The deadline for receipt of these remarks is May 8, 2015.  Get cracking, folks.  Let them hear from you. Much to read here:

5 years ago, I was invited to go to Washington and submit my comments to the committee in person.  This year,  I have simply composed my remarks and submitted them today.

Here are my concerns about the newly revised nutritional guidelines for Americans.dairy farm cows

May 8, 2015

To:  USDA Food Guidelines Committee for 2015

From:  Linda West Eckhardt

James Beard award winning cookbook author

Graduate: Foods and Nutrition,  University of Texas. Austin

Citizens of the United States are fortunate to live in a country with a large, diverse, well-priced healthy food supply. Good food is widely available. Everyone from babies to grandmas can eat healthy food and thrive.

However, the USDA Guidelines don’t seem to be able to catch up to the science and remain committed to outdated and unhealthy suggestions.

We have all observed the devastating results of the low fat diet which has been recommended for more than 40 years.  A tsunami of health problems from obesity to diabetes to heart and circulatory disorders has swamped our society. Statistics warn that our children may not live as long as their parents.

Some have reacted by choosing diets in the Paleo camp with its emphasis on the presumed diet of our ancestors. Heavy reliance on meat, severe restrictions of carbohydrates with outright prohibition of items including dairy based on some belief that said if it wasn’t good enough for our ancestors, we shouldn’t eat it either.

Neither of these extreme positions – low fat, or low carb is defensible when it comes to nutrition.  To promote health, we need to be eating a broad and varied diet of barely processed foods. We need to be eating real food.

What can be done to get the USDA to take a leadership position and do their part to turn this ship around and to stop this completely preventable catastrophe from happening? Good food nourishes us. And it’s already here if you just look for it.

I am distressed to see the federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s draft proposal which seems to have gone further into the weeds attacking nutrient dense foods including full-fat dairy, red meat, and foods with natural, saturated fats.

Never mind that the latest science supports full fat dairy, red meats, and other natural foods for the promotion of brain health, and development and that is vital for the health and welfare of all Americans.

Animal fats derived from pasture-raised animals provide important nutrients including vitamin A (retinol), Vitamin D, and Vitamin K, and E as well as all their naturally occurring cofactors needed to provide maximum nutritional benefits.

These nutrients are currently under consumed by Americans despite the fact that they are available in supermarkets coast to coast.  The most expensive pasture raised egg is still a bargain in nutrition and should be supported and encouraged by federal policy. A four ounce serving of pasture raised red meat is a powerhouse of nutrition and should be supported by federal policy that helps the farmer/rancher to grow and offer these critical foodstuffs to all Americans.

The committee also reported the under consumption of iron which is a direct result of our 40 year reliance on so-called low fat diets. This has been a public health disaster and needs to be stopped.

Animal foods containing saturated fats and cholesterol provide vital nutrients necessary for growth, energy, and protection from degenerative disease.  Saturated fats constitute at least 50% of the cell membranes throughout the entire body, making them vital for normal cell function.  They help calcium to be properly incorporated into the skeletal structure, aid liver function, enhance the immune system and more.

All of this would not be so preposterous if it were hard for Americans to find and consume these nutrient-dense foods.  They are available in every supermarket and should be encouraged and endorsed by public policy.

We needn’t subscribe to extreme vegan regimens, or Paleo beat-your-chest caveman diets.  We needn’t continue the ban on raw dairy products which provides the most nutrients of all.

As Americans, we just need to eat a broad and varied diet of unprocessed foods.

When will our national policy reflect this truth?

I urge the HHS and USDA to revise the Guidelines to reflect the extensive information available on the importance of high-quality dairy, eggs and meat from pasture-raised animals in a healthy diet.




Linda West Eckhardt

James Beard award winning cookbook author

Editor/Founder  Everyvbody Eats News

Author of the forthcoming book: Back To Food



Saturated fat, calcium, and bones:  Watkins, B.A. Et al, “Importance of Vitamin E in Bone Formation and in Chondrocyte Function,” Purdue University, Lafayette, IN,American Oil Chemists Society Proceedings, 1996; Watkins, B.A., and M.F. Seifert, “Food Lipids and Bone Health,” Food Lipids and Health, R.E. McDonald and D.B. Min, eds., p.101, Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, NY, 1996.


Saturated fat and the liver: Nanji, A.A., et al., Gastroenterology, Aug. 1995, 109(2): 547-54; Cha, Y.S., and D.S. Sachan, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Aug. 1994, 13(4):338-43; Hargrove, H.L., et al., Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal, Meeting Abstracts, Mar. 1999, #204.1, pA222.


Saturated fat and immune function: Kabara, J.J., The Pharmacolgical Effects of Lipids, The American Oil Chemists Society, Champaign, IL 1978, 1-14; Cohen, L.A., et al,Journal of National Cancer Institute, 1986, 77:43.


Vitamin A:  Price, Weston, DDS, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 1945, Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, San Diego, CA.  Dunne, Lavon J., Nutrition Almanac, 3rd ed., 1990. McGraw Hill, New York, NY; Jennings, I.W., Vitamins in Endocrine Metabolism, 1970, Heineman, London, UK; Solomans, N.W., and J. Bulox, Nutrition Reviews, July 1993, 51:199-204; Fraps, G.S., and A.R. Kremmerer, Texas Agricultural Bulletin, Feb. 1938, No. 560.

Notes 133-135

About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”