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New Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines were released last month. They are developed to help all Americans and are based on available scientific evidence for health-promoting diets. These Guidelines are reviewed, revised and released every 5 years. This is the first set of guidelines that provide guidance for every life stage, from birth through older adults. Here is a link for the full report.

Make Every Bite Count!

Consider this a call to action. It is about the quality of our diets over time. Eating to promote health means choosing nutrient dense foods. There is very little room for extra calories from added sugars, saturated fats and (if consumed) alcohol. Most of the calories a person eats every day (about 85%) need to be reserved for foods rich in nutrients. Less than 15% of our daily caloric need is left for added sugars, saturated fats and alcohol.

The USDA MyPlate remains as the foundation for healthy eating. Here are the general recommendations:

· Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: focus on whole fruits and vary your veggies

· Make half your grains whole grains

· Vary your protein foods (include plant protein and fish)

· Choose dairy foods 3 times daily; move to low-fat or fat-free dairy milk or yogurt (or lactose-free dairy or fortified soy versions).

Let’s look at what the dietary guidelines suggest we should limit in our eating.

We are advised to keep saturated fat intake in check and cut down on added sugar and sodium.

Saturated fat, should be kept less than 10% of total calories, is found mostly in animal protein foods, including red meat, poultry with skin, cream and butter. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, like what you see when the grease from bacon cools. Tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oil, also contain saturated fat. You can limit saturated fat by purchasing lean cuts of meat and varying protein choices to include legumes and fish. Choosing to cook with a liquid vegetable oil, such as olive, soybean, or canola (containing monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fats) instead of regularly using butter and coconut oil is another smart way to decrease your consumption of saturated fat. When following MyPlate, saturated fat is naturally limited by eating a plate filled with plant foods.

The recommendation for sugar starts young: no added sugar for children under 2 years old. The recommendation to cut down on sugar for all of us over 2 years of age includes any added sugar but it does not include cutting down on natural sugars found in foods such as fruit and dairy. With a recommendation of only 12.5 teaspoons daily (less than 10% of total calories), this can add up quickly if you enjoy sweet desserts and sugary beverages. Hidden sugars count as well, such as those found in jarred pasta sauces, energy drinks, canned fruit in syrup, and breakfast cereals. Look for the added sugar values on Nutrition Facts Labels.

Sodium in the diet should not exceed 2,300mg daily, which is the amount found in one teaspoon of salt. While it helps to avoid the saltshaker at the table, most of the sodium in American diets comes from processed and packaged foods. These include frozen meals, canned or pickled foods, condiments and snacks. Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet may initially cause foods to taste bland, but over time, your taste will adapt, and you’ll be able to use less salt for the same flavor. When cooking pasta, avoid adding salt to the water. Rinsing canned beans before using significantly reduces their sodium content. It will also be important to rely on herbs and other seasonings to bring more flavor to your palette with less salt, just as what’s done with the recipes on my website or in Not Your Mama’s Kitchen book: Even when salt is included in any of my recipes, it is often added at the very end of cooking “to taste”. There are so many ways to enhance flavors of dishes beyond salt, and you will discover these in many recipes on my website,


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