Whole vegetables and fruit are recommended, unsurprisingly. (Photo: Getty Images)
After months of debates and controversy, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are out.
The guidelines, which give Americans advice on healthy eating and influence many federal and nutrition programs, were jointly released on Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The overarching message is the same: The guidelines recommend that Americans eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, a mix of proteins (lean meats, nuts, and seafood), and oils.
According to the guidelines, this is what constitutes a healthy diet:
- Vegetables of different colors
- Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains, half of which are whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
In a new recommendation, the guidelines suggest that Americans have no more than 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugars. The guidelines also recommend getting less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats and ingesting less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily.
Certified dietitian-nutritionist Lisa Moskovitz, CEO of NY Nutrition Group, points out that not much has changed. “The new U.S. dietary guidelines are not drastically different than the old, as most scientific evidence still supports the same key recommendations,” she says.
Controversially, the guidelines continue to recommend that Americans consume low-fat and no-fat dairy products, which some nutritionists say isn’t necessary.
Despite the controversy surrounding the low-fat dairy recommendation, Moskovitz says she still supports it for the general population. “However, I also believe full-fat dairy is OK in moderation and often less processed,” she says. “The fat also helps absorb the vitamin D.”
But Joan Salge Blake, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a nutrition professor at Boston University, tells Yahoo Health that the low-fat and no-fat dairy recommendation makes sense for the majority of the American public. “Sixty-nine percent of Americans are overweight,” she says. “We need to be counting calories here. If we want to win the battle of the scale, the best way to do that is to cut calories.”
The guidelines don’t provide a daily recommended limit of fat intake or dietary cholesterol but say the latter “does not suggest that dietary cholesterol is no longer important to consider when building healthy eating patterns.”
The guidelines also address alcohol consumption, recommending that people drink alcohol in moderation (no more than one drink per day for women; up to two drinks per day for men). Caffeine was also mentioned — the report says coffee “can be incorporated into healthy eating patterns.”
Surprisingly, there was no dietary limit for red or processed meat, even though the Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended one be put in place after a controversial World Health Organization report declared that processed meats cause cancer, and red meats likely cause cancer.
But Blake says there is — kind of. “The guidelines say we should eat less saturated fat and less sodium, and we know processed meats can be a higher source of both,” she says. “I think they came in with a big overview, rather than targeting specific foods.”
Stacey Nelson, manager of clinical nutrition at MGH Nutrition Services, says she’s “pleased” with the guidelines overall. “As far as the controversial pieces, I don’t really have problem with that because we’re not highlighting a food — we’re looking at dietary patterns and balance,” she says. “When you read between the lines, it’s in there.”
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