By Lisa Zook, Registered Dietician
The new dietary guidelines for Americans were released January 7th by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. These new recommendations emphasize healthy lifelong eating patterns rather than singling out specific foods to avoid.
The guidelines may seem confusing, but can be broken down into sections to make it easier to implement into your diet.
Continue to limit those “bad” fats such as trans-fat and saturated fats (butter, whole milk, cream, animal fats, hydrogenated fats and palm or coconut oil). Instead of going on a low fat diet and thus eating more sugars and carbohydrates, use good fats such as avocados, olive oil, flaxseed oil, fatty fish, nuts, seeds and liquid plant oils in moderation. Protein foods should be low in fat, such as fish, lean chicken and other lean meats, low fat dairy products, yogurt, beans and soy products. This allows for a wider choice of food, which can curb overloading on empty calories.
The exclusion of eggs and other high cholesterol foods has been dropped. Science has shown that it is the saturated and trans-fats that needs to be limited, not cholesterol rich foods that have little fat content (shrimp and shellfish).
Added sugars are from foods such as desserts, ice cream and soda pop. A specific goal has been set as 10% of your daily calorie intake. For a 2000 calorie diet, this would be 200 calories per day from added sugar. At 4 calories per gram of sugar, the limit would amount to 50 grams of sugar per day. (200 calories divided by 4 calories per gram = 50 grams of sugar). Labeling laws will most likely be changed in the future to identify the number of grams of added sugar in a product. Natural sugars from dairy products and fruit are healthier choices. Water should be substituted for diet drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners.
Coffee and caffeine products are now noted to be part of a healthy diet. The upper limit is suggested to be 400 mg daily. Generally coffee has 90-150 mg caffeine per 6 oz. and tea 50-100 mg per cup.
Grains and Fiber:
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich whole grains is again promoted as part of a healthy diet. Refined white bread, cereals and crackers should be replaced with whole grain breads, whole wheat pastas, brown rice, fiber-rich cereals and whole grain snack bars.
A limit for sodium has been suggested at 2,300 milligrams per day. This is a difficult goal unless you limit canned goods and highly processed foods. Switching out to frozen vegetables, avoiding fast foods and convenience foods will make it easier to reach this goal. Herbs can go a long way in seasoning foods rather than using salt. Reading food labels is a must, as there are many hidden sources of sodium. Good choices should have less than 300 mg sodium per serving.
These guidelines strive to provide suggestions for a healthy all around diet. Balance and moderation is the key.