Quick Overview of the New USDA and HHS Dietary Guidelines

Dietary guidelines - Nutrition

Every five years, the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) releases new dietary guidelines to help Americans make better food choices. The most recent set came out earlier this year.

This quick overview will help you understand what your customers are thinking as they wander the aisles of the grocery store.

No one-size-fits-all solution

In the past, the dietary guidelines have recommended particular portion sizes. The new ones do away with this, recognizing that people are different and that they have varying levels of access to different types of food.

Instead of recommending (or not recommending) specific foods, the guidelines center on nutrients.

Variety is the spice of life

According to the HHS, the 8th edition focuses “not on individual nutrients or foods in isolation, but on the variety of what people eat and drink.” The goal is to achieve “healthy eating patterns as a whole—to bring about lasting improvements in individual and population health.”

More fruits and veggies, more whole grains

No surprise here. The new guidelines recommend that if Americans are going to eat more of anything, it should be fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Less sugar, less salt

The recommendations for both sugar and salt have become more stringent. According to the new guidelines, added sugar should be no more than 15% of daily calories (down from 10%), and salt should be limited to just about one teaspoon per day.

Lean meats are okay

One of the most highly contested areas of the guidelines surrounded the recommendation concerning meat.

In the end, the USDA and HHS decided to include lean meats as part of a healthy diet, but advise limiting fatty meats because of the saturated fats, which shouldn’t comprise more than 10% of daily calories. They also recommend that people who eat the most meat — namely teen boys and adult men — should cut back on proteins in general.

Eggs are good again

Government regulations — and the American public — have had a rocky relationship with eggs over the past several decades.

Eggs have long been thought to contribute to high cholesterol levels. But the new guidelines — which are based on the newest research — suggest they aren’t as bad as all that. According to Karen DeSalvo, HHS assistant secretary for health, “Eggs can be part of a healthy eating pattern and people should be thoughtful about including them into a healthy routine.”

Overall, the guidelines emphasize the importance of getting enough nutrients, which many Americans are currently lacking. Learn more and download toolkits for industries and professionals at www.health.gov.

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