The Latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Published February 8, 2016

New year, new diet? That's the word from the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 

In January, the department released its 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines, which are based on evolving nutrition science, serve as the government’s official advice of what to eat. Compared to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, there are a few noteworthy changes, which we've outlined below:

  • Limit saturated fat to ≤ 10% of calories and replace with unsaturated fat. The 2015 guidelines keeps the same recommendations for fat from 2010, however this time it specifies the need to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats. Previously, people replaced those calories with refined carbohydrates, which actually lowered HDL (good cholesterol) while raising LDL (bad cholesterol). So, swap out your butter for healthy fat like olive oil.
  • Consume less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars.  While the 2010 guidelines had general advice to reduce the intake of added sugars, the newest revision includes a specific amount. For a 2,000 calorie diet, it's 12 teaspoons of sugar a day.  (That doesn't include naturally occurring sugars such as those in fruit and milk.) Sound like alot? Many Americans can consume up to 22 teaspoons a day. Replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with water is a good way to start.
  • Caffeine. Caffeine was not mentioned in the 2010 guidelines, but was addressed in the new guidelines. Caffeine is not a nutrient, however experts acknowledge its widespread use and recommended a daily upper limit of 400 mg (a standard 8 oz cup of coffee contains anywhere from 95-200 mg)
  • No specific limit on cholesterol. The new guidelines drop a longstanding recommendation to limit cholesterol from food to 300 mg/day.  The newest science shows saturated fat, not dietary cholesterol intake, has a much greater impact on blood cholesterol levels.
  • Importance of Eating Patterns. Eating patterns are the combination of all foods and drinks a person consumes over time. Healthy eating patterns include a variety of nutritious foods like vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, lean meats and other protein foods, and oils. Although the guidelines did not specifically say to limit the intake of red meat, the message to eat more seafood, legumes and other protein foods emphasizes a shift towards less red meat. It's also recommended to limit sodium, saturated fat, trans fats, and added sugars.  There is more than one type of healthy eating pattern—the 2015 Dietary Guidelines give some examples here

 Laura Quinn RDN, CDN Sodexo Dietitian at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital

This post first appeared on Burke's weekly blog, Rehab Insights. Check in every Tuesday to see the latest in information on rehabilitation, health, wellness and more. 

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