Watch your sugar, use caution with the salt shaker and limit those saturated fats.
That’s the guidance from the updated U.S. nutritional guidelines, released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. The guidelines are published every 5 years and aim to reflect the latest science-based evidence about what we eat.
You can find the entire official document explaining the guidelines for 2015-2020 here.
For the first time, the 2015 guidelines tackle added sugars, recommending they make up less than 10% of Americans’ diets. Added sugars do not include naturally-occurring sugars such as those in milk or fruit.
The guidelines also recommend less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fats. Those include butter, whole milk, meats that are not lean and tropical oils such as coconut or palm oil.
And they recommend eating less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily for those over 14 – less for those younger than 14.
In a change from past guidelines, eggs are now included among recommended protein foods. Also included are seafood, lean meats and poultry, legumes (beans and peas), and soy products, along with nuts and seeds.
Careful with the meat, though – diets with less meat, including processed meats and processed poultry, can reduce the risk of heart disease, according to the guidelines.
Also for the first time, the guidelines do not propose restricting how much total fat we eat. Over the past decade, research has shown health benefits for diets such as the Mediterranean diet, which is high in unsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts and fatty fish. The decision to drop the total fat limit was hailed earlier this year.
And there’s good news if you like your cup of java: The guidelines mention coffee for the first time and say that “moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into healthy eating patterns.”
“By focusing on small shifts in what we eat and drink, eating healthy becomes more manageable,” Sylvia Burwell, secretary of Health and Human Services, says in a statement. “The Dietary Guidelines provide science-based recommendations on food and nutrition so people can make decisions that may help keep their weight under control and prevent chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.”
The guidelines urge Americans to follow a healthy eating pattern across their lifes, focusing on a variety of vegetables (dark green, red and orange); fruits, especially whole fruits; grains, at least half of them whole grains; and fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt and cheese, along with protein foods and oils, especially plant- or nut-based oils.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest says the recommendations are “sound, sensible and science-based.”
“If Americans ate according to that advice, it would be a huge win for the public’s health,” says Michael Jacobson, CSPI president. “That said, the federal government’s basic nutrition advice has remained largely unchanged for the past 35 years. The problem is that the food industry has continued to pressure and tempt us to eat a diet of burgers, pizzas, burritos, cookies, doughnuts, sodas, shakes, and other foods loaded with white flour, red and processed meat, salt, saturated fat and added sugars, and not enough vegetables, fruit and whole grains.”