Breaking Down the New Dietary Guidelines

By Adriana Selwyn

Last month, the long awaited 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released. Updated every five years, these guidelines outline what Americans should be eating to stay healthy based on the latest scientific research.

Right in time for National Nutrition Month, here’s what you need to know:


What’s new in these guidelines?

  • A greater emphasis on healthier dietary patterns that include plenty of plant-based foods, less meat and processed foods throughout the lifespan.
  • A stronger call to cut down on added sugars with a new recommendation to limit sugars to no more than 10% of your daily calories.
  • A removal of the limit on dietary cholesterol (so eggs are back in).


What has stayed the same?

  • Continued push for eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts.
  • Reminder that no more than 10% of total daily calories should be from saturated fat (found in animal meats and palm oil). Priority should be given to lean protein sources (such as fish, lean meat and beans) and healthy fats (such as olive oil and avocado).
  • Recommendation to limit sodium to 2300mg (~1 teaspoon of salt) per day.
  • Advisement that a moderate amount of alcohol consumption (1 standard drink per day for women and 2 standard drinks per day for men) is acceptable.

What isn’t being said?

  • No mention of limiting processed or red meat intake, despite recommendations from the World Health Organization that people avoid these due to an increased risk of certain cancers.
  • No mention of the benefits to health and the environment of eating less meat and more plant-based foods. Data from the Vitality HealthyFood program show reductions in water use, land use and greenhouse gas emissions from making healthier choices. Read more from Dr. David Katz on the topic here.
  • Lack of emphasis on the importance of paying attention to the portion sizes of our foods for maintaining a healthy weight.

What does this mean for you?

While these latest guidelines are a helpful resource, the basics of what it means to eat well have not changed. Use common sense to make healthy choices, enjoy your meals and eat what is right for you. Healthy eating is one of the key pillars of lifelong health, so remember to:

  • Always include plenty of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
  • Avoid eating too much meat and choose lean cuts. Include other sources of lean protein like fish and beans.
  • Limit you sugar and salt intake, especially from sugary drinks, processed foods and treat or snack foods. Remember: Most salt in the diet comes from “hidden” salt already in packaged foods, rather than salt added at the table.
  • Eat the right amount of calories – and keep active – to maintain a healthy weight.


What do you think of the new dietary guidelines? How do you incorporate healthy eating into your daily life? And if you are in the US, how are you celebrating National Nutrition Month?


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