Every 5 years the United States government updates the dietary recommendations based on evolving research and findings in science nutrition. Many of the recommendations come as familiar, but there have been some changes to cholesterol and coffee intake as well as new restrictions added to intake of sugar and saturated fats. These new recommendations focus on the importance of establishing a healthy eating pattern that includes a variety of nutrient-dense, healthy foods at an appropriate calorie level based on your body weight.  Establishing a healthy eating pattern supports a healthy body weight and in return reduces the risk of developing chronic disease. What do these guidelines mean and how can we incorporate these recommendations into our everyday eating habits?

These new recommendations focus on the importance of establishing a healthy eating pattern that includes a variety of nutrient-dense, healthy foods at an appropriate calorie level

Here’s what you need know about the new dietary guidelines:

  1. Watch your sugar intake. One of the biggest additions to the new dietary guidelines is the sugar restriction. Added sugars should make up no more than 10% of daily calories.
  2. Lower your sodium intake. It is recommended that sodium intake should not exceed 2,300 mg (about one teaspoon). Having a sodium overload can lead to hypertension, and eventually, heart disease.
  3. Limit your intake of saturated fats and trans fats. No more than 10% of the total calories you consume per day should be saturated and trans fats. You can limit your saturated fat intake by cutting back on animal products, dairy, eggs and processed foods. Aim to replace these with ‘good’ fats often found in foods such as avocados, nuts, olive oil, salmon and fish oil.
  4. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. The recommendation is to include a variety of fruits (especially whole fruits) and vegetables from all subgroups (dark green, red, orange, legumes, starches) in your diet.
  5. Consume cholesterol in moderation. Another major change made to the new guidelines is in regards to cholesterol. Previously, the guidelines recommended no more than 300 mg where now, there is no limit, however, cholesterol rich foods should be consumed in moderation.
  6. Consume more whole grains. At least half of the grains you consume should be whole grains. Examples of whole grain foods are brown rice, whole grain pasta, and quinoa.
  7. Limit your coffee intake. The new recommendations suggest that a moderate intake of coffee can be included into healthy eating patterns by consuming no more than 3-5 8 ounce cups per day.
  8. Consume low fat or non-fat dairy products. If consuming dairy, make sure it is low fat or fat free.
  9. Include a variety of proteins. The new guidelines encourage a wide variety of proteins to be eaten such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and soy products.
  10. Drink alcohol in moderation. If consuming alcohol, men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women no more than one drink per day.

In summary, these new guidelines promote establishing healthy eating patterns through including vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, protein foods, and oils (within an appropriate calorie level and in forms) with limited amounts of saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium into your diet. To put these guidelines into practice, the Healthy Mediterranean-Style eating pattern and a Healthy Vegetarian eating pattern are great places to start.

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