Almost four decades ago, the US Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs came up with the first national dietary guidelines. The 1977 “Dietary Goals for the United States,” in clear, food-based language, advised us to “decrease consumption of meat” — but ten months later, a new version officially replaced it, saying instead “decrease consumption of animal fat, and choose meats…which will reduce saturated fat intake.”

Fast forward 39 years and little has changed today. The report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, issued last February, recommended cutting back on red and processed meats, for our health and that of our planet. Eleven months and a slew of special interest pushbacks later, the actual 2015 Dietary Guidelines tell us to eat lean meats and limit consumption of saturated fats, while making no mention of sustainability

So how’s your typical American supposed to know what to eat, for better health? Everyone knows what meat looks like, but very few people can identify saturated fats when they see them. Mumbo jumbo and confusion reign, once again.

That’s why we developed the Oldways Cart: to show clearly what healthy eating looks like. Based on the solid science of leading nutrition scientists at the Oldways Finding Common Ground conference — who endorsed the main conclusions of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Report — the Oldways Cart helps anyone picture a week’s worth of healthy foods for two adults.

The Oldways Cart is a description of how to shop and how to think about food choices, not a prescription for exactly what to eat. While different individuals may prefer soy milk to dairy milk, or cauliflower over broccoli, the emphasis is not on the exact foods. Rather, the Oldways Cart is meant to illustrate an overall pattern of eating, no matter what your food or cuisine preferences. The countertop picture below shows that our grocery carts should be filled with an abundance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other plant foods.

Many shoppers may not be used to buying such a large variety of fresh ingredients, and may not know how these healthy foods can be combined to make delicious meals. To make the principles of the Oldways Cart clear and easy to follow (cooking and eating), a one week menu plan, complete with recipes, complements the Oldways Cart. Download plan and recipes.

There’s no need to eat these exact foods, or follow these menus dish for dish; in fact, we recommend that the foods in your cart change weekly, for variety, and seasonally, to enjoy nature’s bounty. Just use the cart as an example of the types of foods to eat, and ways to combine them to enjoy an eating pattern that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, with small amounts of optional meat, cheese and fish.

The Oldways Cart also demonstrates that eating well doesn’t need to be expensive. In January 2016, the foods consumed in the one-week Oldways Cart Meal Plan cost just $126.38 at a mainstream supermarket, putting the cost about halfway between USDA estimates for a “low cost” food budget and a “moderate” one – and well below the USDA’s “liberal plan” for two people.

We hope you find the Oldways Cart and its supporting materials to be helpful tools in guiding your food decisions.

– Cynthia and Kelly

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