2015-2020 dietary guidelines

New dietary guidelines call for less sugar and less meat (for boys)

January 7, 2016

With a new year comes new diet advice and 2016 is no exception. The federal government today released its much-anticipated 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, which are revised every five years and serve as the official guide on what to, and not to, eat.

Typically, the guidelines encourage Americans to consume more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, and low-fat foods, while curbing cravings for foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. While much of the advice remains unchanged, there are several key revisions. Here’s the rundown (based on a 2,000 calorie diet):

  • For the first time, the government put a limit on sugar—no more than 10 percent of your daily calories. Drinking more than one can of full sugar soda tops out the limit.
  • Saturated fats, too, should account for no more than 10 percent of a person’s daily caloric intake.
  • Interestingly, while draft recommendations had suggested cutting back on red and processed meats, the advice was not included in the final recommendations. Instead, the guidelines call for a shift towards other protein foods, including more nuts and seeds and seafood (about 8 ounces of seafood per week). The report also points out that teenage boys and adult men consume more than the recommended 26 ounces a week of protein from animal sources—so they should “reduce overall intake of protein foods” like meat, poultry and eggs.
  • Surprisingly, there is a drop in the longstanding recommendation to limit cholesterol-rich foods to 300 milligrams a day (equivalent to just about two eggs). The guidelines now recommend Americans “eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.”
  • Sodium intake should be cut back to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day.
  • Good news for coffee drinkers: Caffeine intake (equivalent to three to five cups of coffee per day) is not only safe, but appears to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Essentially, the guidelines encourage healthy eating patterns, similar to a Mediterranean diet lifestyle, emphasizing more vegetables and fruits, nuts and legumes, as well as more seafood and whole grains.

Issued by the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Department, the guidelines can have a major impact on the diets of millions of Americans—influencing what’s served through the national school lunch program, changes in nutrition labels, as well as food assistance programs.

— Holly Shive

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