So, it’s 2016. Why do we care about the 2015 dietary guidelines?!Excellent question! So here is the 411 on the DGA (dietary guidelines for Americans). Guidelines have actually been around since the 80s. Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout?!Yep, that is right! Every 5 years, our government rounds up the most respected nutrition experts (perhaps my invitation got lost in the mail?) and they review all the latest and respectable nutrition research. The committee wants to be sure their recommendations are evidence based. Once the committee makes (or “agrees”) on their recommendations, they go to review. Unfortunately what comes next isn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows. Insert lobbyists and politicians and these guidelines go back and forth for awhile (or a year….). It’s super important because these guidelines carry a lot of weight (no pun intended). These guidelines not only help guide health care professionals in educating patients, but also dictate funds for government food programs like WIC and the school lunch program.
So what really changed? The biggest news is we now have a cap for added sugars, yay! Quick note here, added sugars like those find in sodas, candy bars, pasta sauce, salad dressings and even in some yogurt. Intrinsic sugars are those sugars occurring naturally in foods like fruits, vegetables and dairy. Intrinsic sugars are good! Added sugars, not so much. On average Americans consume 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. Cough, diabetes, cough. The new guidelines recommend no more than 10% of your calories come from added sugar. So if you were to consume 2000 calories a day, no more than 200 calories should come from added sugar. This translates to 50 grams or 12 teaspoons. To put this in perspective, one soda has 35 grams of added sugar. With more than two thirds of Americans overweight or obese, added sugar is a huge problem. Many chronic diseases can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle. This recommendation will do our great nation good!
Other recommendations include limiting saturated fat to 10% of total calories (more generous than the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 7%). You can find saturated fat in animal products like beef, skin on chicken, full fat dairy and cheese. Honestly, you should not be eating much of this stuff anyways! Also, the guidelines address sodium. The committee recommends no more of 2300 mg sodium per day. So in addition to salty snacks and processed meats, watch those canned and frozen items. And taste your food before you salt it. The average American consumes 5000 mg per day. Yikes!
Finally, the committee recommends a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, beans and legumes. So do your best to incorporate as many fruits and veggies throughout your day. The more colors the better! Want to know more? Click on the button below to debunk those health food myths!
Caroline manages the internal wellness program to improve the health of Methodist Health System’s employee and dependent population. A University of Oklahoma graduate, Caroline has 10 years experience as a registered and licensed dietitian.