The much anticipated 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans has finally been released. These guidelines are designed to give Americans recommendations on making the best choices for their health. According to health.gov, “Every 5 years, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and of Agriculture (USDA) must jointly publish a report containing nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public…based on the preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge.” Basically, the guidelines are updated every 5 years to give us the best recommendations based off of the latest scientific evidence.
There is a lot to digest in this latest update, but here are the Key Recommendations:
Consume a healthy eating pattern that accounts for all foods and beverages within an appropriate calorie level.
A healthy eating pattern includes:
- A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
A healthy eating pattern limits:
- Saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium
Key Recommendations that are quantitative are provided for several components of the diet that should be limited. These components are of particular public health concern in the United States, and the specified limits can help individuals achieve healthy eating patterns within calorie limits:
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats
- Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium
- If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age.
You will notice a few changes from recent recommendations. First off, there is less of an emphasis on focusing on single nutrients and more of an emphasis on overall eating patterns. This makes a lot more sense because we typically eat an amalgamation of different foods, not just single nutrients.
Second, there is no recommendation on limiting dietary cholesterol. This represents a shift in science that dietary cholesterol may not be as big of a factor as we once though for preventing heart disease. Instead, we should be focusing on reducing refined carbohydrates and added sugars in our diet. The recommendation now is to consume less than 10 percent of calories from added sugars each day, which would be about 12.5 tsp or 200 calories worth of added sugars. The American Heart Association suggests stricter guidelines of less than 6 tsp for women (about 100 calories) and less than 9 tsp for men (about 150 calories). To put things in perspective, 1 teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to one packet of sugar and there are about 16 tsp of sugar in one 20oz bottle of coca cola, which is about 240 calories worth of pure sugar, well above the recommendations.
As dietitians and members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, we agree with these recommendations and feel that they are a good set of guidelines for Americans. Some other things to consider would be to include more plant based proteins in favor of animal proteins and choose more sustainably grown foods.