Changes to U.S. Dietary Guidelines: What You Need to Know

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You may remember it as the food pyramid poster you studied in elementary school. An easy to understand government recommended list of the food you should eat daily. This pyramid is simply a boiled down version of the country’s eating guidelines, which are constantly being evaluated and changed as health issues and science evolve. Every five years, the United States releases an updated set of dietary guidelines that are based on a food discussion between government-appointed experts, dietitians, scientists, doctors, medical associations, the public, and the food industry.

For the next five years the updated guidelines and suggestions have been released, recommending an overall healthy eating pattern with new, stricter limitations on certain substances. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Say goodbye to your sweet tooth

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Arguably the biggest change to the dietary guidelines is the limitation of added sugar to no more than 10% of a person’s daily dietary calories. This means sugars found in desserts and drinks as well as those hidden in sauces and salad dressings should be limited to maintain a healthy diet. The guidelines do not consider naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and other whole foods as part of this restriction. Currently, added sugars account for an average of 13% or 270 calories of the daily average American’s diet. Of this percentage, 47% of these added sugars come from beverages such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, and sweetened coffee.

2. Protein reevaluated

The new guidelines encourages the public to eat protein-rich food to keep the metabolism running smoothly and to retain muscle mass. Protein from seafood, lean meat, and poultry is specifically recommended including a recommendation of consuming at least 8 ounces of seafood per week. While, the report encourages the consumption of protein, the summary notes that there is evidence that a lower intake of meat, particularly processed meats and poultry, does decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. The report specifically calls out men and boys as adhering to a diet that is too high in protein.

3. Eggs are back

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Egg lovers can celebrate with an omelet (stuffed with veggies, of course) over the news that eggs have been removed from the “naughty” list. Egg consumption was previously limited in a healthy diet due to their high cholesterol levels but it turns out dietary cholesterol doesn’t affect heart disease as previously believed. However, while the body uses cholesterol for physiological and structural functions, the body makes cholesterol on its own and does not need the high levels found in some foods.

4. Veggies, fruit, and whole grains win again

Once again, these three food groups hit hard and top the list of healthy dietary recommendations. The report recommends eating two and a half cups of vegetables a day. Two cups of fruit with half of that in the form of whole fruit is also recommended. Both vegetables and fruits help you feel full without packing in the calories, are full of essential vitamins, and many varieties have high fiber, which helps with digestion. The report suggests eating 6 ounces of grains daily with at least half of these being whole grains. Brown rice, quinoa, and oats are healthy choices that are rich in fiber, calcium, and vitamin D.

5. Eat the right fats

The report suggests limiting saturated and trans fats to less than 10% of your daily calorie intake. This includes foods like butter, whole milk, meats that are not lean, and tropical oils like coconut and palm oil. It is recommended to replace these saturated fats with unsaturated fats like canola or olive oil. The report recognizes that good fats are vital to your health like Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish.

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