What Do the New Dietary Guidelines Recommend?
The new Federal Dietary Guidelines were released in January and one main point suggests drastically cutting our added sugar intake. The guidelines also suggest that boys and men cut back on meat, chicken, eggs. Planned environmental recommendations (as they relate to food) were removed from the final draft, and longstanding cholesterol limits were also removed. An egg a day is now acceptable.
Guidelines in the past, and up until this most recent update, have always emphasized consuming more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low fat foods, while restricting saturated fat and in more recent years really restricting trans fats and dietary cholesterol. It should be noted that even if you’re not interested in the newest recommendations, these guidelines do affect food chosen for the national school lunch program, and they also help to shape programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children with its eight million beneficiaries.
Many in the field of nutrition hope that the new guidelines’ position on sugar will also inspire new food label mandates, so consumers can clearly see how much sugar per portion they’re eating and how much sugar is in a day’s worth of food choices. The dietary guidelines certainly echo concerns expressed by the World Health Organization (WHO), supported by studies that link over-consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar with risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
The (mostly) plant-based diet recommendation, which had been linked to environmentally-sustainable diet goals, was not included in the final new dietary guidelines’ draft. One specific complaint that experts like Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University raised, was the planned intent of the guidelines to emphasize (healthy) “food patterns,” rather than specific nutrient goals. The guidelines did not really end up meeting that goal, according to experts like Nestle.
Though the limit of 300 milligrams a day of dietary cholesterol suggestion was removed, the advisory panel still noted that, “Americans should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.” Others feel that the “minor changes” that the newly updated guidelines offer, inspire little in the way of clear channels of change that many consumers really need, especially if they are grappling with lifestyle-related diseases like obesity and diabetes.
So what can you access from these guidelines?
1. Whole fruits and vegetables should be mainstays in the diet.
2. High cholesterol shrimp and eggs can be consumed but keep it to a portion a day for each.
3. A couple to several cups of coffee daily is considered acceptable.
4. The guidelines in do emphasize a lifelong eating approach that emphasizes nutrient-rich foods, watching caloric intake so you don’t gain weight, and eating foods that fight disease.
5. Foods that are emphasized in the revised guidelines, in addition to produce, include: unprocessed whole grains, fat free and low fat dairy products (for calcium and vitamin D), and protein foods that have little saturated fat (if meat, poultry, fish and shellfish) or almost zero saturated fat if they are plant-based (soy, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, peas). As discussed earlier, an egg a day is fine for most people.
6. An understanding of healthy fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids) versus unhealthy fats (saturated fats and trans fat) is considered crucial. Though healthy fats are quite satiating and must be part of a healthy diet, portion control is crucial, since one gram of fat has 9 calories per gram, while one gram of carbohydrate or protein has four calories per gram. Fats are filling because they have double the calories per gram, compared to protein and carbohydrate-based foods.
Despite the emphasis on reducing intake of refined carbohydrates, consumers should not attempt to replace them with unrestricted amounts of healthy proteins and fats. These healthy foods have calories too! The biggest mistake someone can make is to eat too much, even if most of the food choices are healthy foods.
Specifically, the guidelines recommend:
• Limit saturated fat to 10% or less of your day’s total calories
• Cut sodium intake and target 2300 milligrams of salt daily. If heart disease or high blood pressure is present, target 1500 milligrams per day.
• Keep added sugars to less than 10% of your day’s daily calories. That also means that children should consume far less sugar than adults since kids consume fewer calories daily.