New Dietary Guidelines and What You Need to Know

Dietary Guidelines for Americans have been released by doctors and researchers at the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA). The Guidelines scientifically show, Mom was right – you need to eat your fruits and veggies, choose whole grains, cut back on sweets and go easier on salt and saturated fat.

The 2015-2016 Dietary Guidelines provide science-based recommendations on food and nutrition to promote health, get weight under control and prevent chronic health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. The Guidelines include a lot of detailed facts designed for policymakers, nutrition educators and health professionals in America to support the development of science-based nutrition policy and education materials. They include recommendations for consumers, too.

Previous dietary guidelines focused mainly on individual components such as food groups or certain nutrients. The focus this time around is on healthy eating patterns to encourage good health over a lifetime for both individuals and groups. A healthy eating pattern is flexible and can be modified to meet an individual’s personal and cultural preferences as well as medical issues. The most important thing is to choose a healthy eating pattern that’s right for you.

While Americans’ eating habits could use improvement, the good news is that you can make small changes in your diet over time to improve your health and wellness. You don’t have to make huge changes overnight.

Key Recommendations

Healthy eating is one of the most powerful tools we have to improve quality of life and to prevent chronic health problems. To achieve this, aim for a healthy eating pattern.

The Guidelines suggest we consume a healthy eating pattern that accounts for all foods and beverages within an appropriate calorie level. To keep calories in check, choose nutrient-dense foods (foods with high amounts of nutrients for few calories) within each food category.

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
  • Oils

A Healthy Eating Pattern Limits:

  • Saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars and sodium

The Standard American Diet (SAD, it is!) is high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. For example, the average added sugar intake is 22 to 30 teaspoons per day. The average sodium intake is 3,400 mg per day. Consuming foods and beverages high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugars can contribute to chronic health problems over time. The U.S. Guidelines recommend the following to keep these items in check:

  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars (about 6 to 9 teaspoons per day)
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats (about 12 to 20 g per day)
  • Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium (eat fewer processed, convenience foods and eat out less often to reduce sodium)
  • If you consume alcohol, 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.

The Guidelines remind Americans that all food and beverage choices matter. As we shift to healthier food and beverage choices, our overall health and wellness will benefit.

A goal of the Guidelines is to support healthy eating patterns for all. The Guidelines emphasize that everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns, from home to school to work to our communities.

If you’re seeking more information about how these Guidelines affect you, see a Registered Dietitian, the nutrition expert, for help in tailoring these recommendations to meet your individual needs.

See the full Dietary Guidelines for Americans online.

Meet the Author

Heather Klug, MEd RD is a registered dietitian and cardiac educator at the Karen Yontz Women's Cardiac Awareness Center inside Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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