Dietary Guidelines Update: What Does It Mean for Our Diet?

The entire nutrition community was anxiously awaiting the release of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report (yes, it’s what we do!). The report was finally released last week.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

The entire nutrition community has been anxiously awaiting the release of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s report (yes, it’s what we do!). The report was finally released last week. Although much of the chatter may seem vague, these recommendations tend to influence what we eat, how food is processed and how governmental policy takes shape.

Every five years the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated. The guidelines are based on scientific studies that are continually being released – that’s why nutrition recommendations evolve over time. One of the last stages of the process is when a group of appointed experts come together, review a lot of data and make recommendations on what should be included in the Dietary Guidelines. This report is then delivered to the United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services to help the government determine the final version of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Most people won’t cozy up to the 572-page report, so here is a summary of the need-to-know information in it.

We don’t eat our veggies: The report stated that close to 90 percent of Americans don't get the daily recommended veggie intake!

We overdose on sugar: The report recommends cutting added sugar from 25 percent of total energy to 10 percent of total energy. That means that you should be taking in a maximum of 200 calories of sugar on a 2,000-calorie diet. As a result of this recommendation, you’ll probably see a rise in low- and no-calorie artificial sweeteners and food companies will continue slashing sugar in their foods.

We eat too much saturated fat: The limit for saturated fat is 10 percent of total calories – that’s 200 calories or 22 grams of saturated fat. You can find saturated fat in many processed foods, so be sure to read food labels carefully. You’ll also want to think about replacing some of the saturated fat in your diet (like butter) with healthier fat (like avocado or oil).

We don’t overconsume cholesterol: The cholesterol you find in foods like eggs and shellfish DOES NOT raise your blood cholesterol level as once thought. So please go enjoy the entire egg — the yolk as well as the white!

Meat confusion: The report acknowledged that Americans consume more than the recommended daily amount of protein. However, it also suggested that a healthy dietary pattern is one that is “low in red and processed meat.” The report also noted that lean meat can be part of a healthy diet. This leaves a lot of confusion surrounding red meat. Over 65 percent of beef cuts meet the guidelines for “lean” — which means they are less than 10 percent fat by weight. So go ahead and eat your lean meat.

The report was also a time for firsts. A big emphasis was placed on how we grow and distribute our food, and on the importance of eating together as a family. Individual components of food, like saturated fat or sugar, should not be demonized. Instead we should be looking at the entire diet as a whole. You should be asking yourself: Do I eat appropriate portions? Am I eating enough vegetables? Am I skipping meals?
What’s Next?

The public has 45 days to comment on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s Report. Written comments are open until April 8, 2015 at midnight ET.

Once the comment period is closed, the official Dietary Guidelines for 2015 will be released later this year.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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