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Every five years, the United States issues the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). In honor of their 2015 debut, today's Super Plate Sunday is all about the recommendations that can help make your overall plate super! The MyPlate returned in the new 2015 Guidelines with a few major changes that all Americans should take note of.
In contrast to previous sets, overall eating patterns are at the heart of the guidelines. The importance of a diet over time, day in and day out should have been the focus for a while now. A healthy “eating pattern” (as per the newest guidelines) provides adequate nutrients, energy intake that promotes a healthy body weight, and reduces the risk of chronic disease. Variety, moderation, nutrient density, and portion size are also key players.
Fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and lean protein options continue to make up a recommended diet. Limiting refined grains, like white breads, bagels, and pastas, and making half of your grains whole grains is another major focus. For the first time, protein intake among teen boys and men was pinpointed to be decreased and replaced with vegetables and other under consumed food groups, like fruit or dairy. This group has particularly high (and not necessarily healthy) intakes of animal protein--something I’ve seen first hand too often--and long term consequences of this diet trend currently remain unknown.
Considering most Americans consume too much saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium, these nutrients are another major focus. Less than 10% of calories from saturated fat and keeping trans fats to a minimum is recommended. Eating less refined grains and meats high in these fats, along with more lean proteins and whole grains, can help decrease intake of both fats. With its impact on satiation, potential to curve cravings, and the benefits of healthy fat, limiting overall fat intake is no longer a point of focus. Now, total fat intake is just recommended to stay within the macronutrient recommendation range (AMDR) of 20-35% of calories and cholesterol intake is should be limited, but no set limit is given
Excess sodium intake, a contributor to heart disease and stroke, continues to be a major public health concern with an average intake of 3440 mg per day! New York State took this into their own hands when they mandated food service establishments post a warning with menu items containing more than 2300 mg per serving. The most recent guidelines suggest limiting intake to no more than 2,300 mg a day and 1500 mg per day for those with high blood pressure.
Another area that has required focus is finally getting the attention it needs--added sugars. Americans currently consume 13% of their calories from added sugars. This year, the guidelines debuted their first specific recommendations with a limit of no more than 10% of calories. This equates to 200 calories or 50 grams worth, which is about 12 teaspoons or less than a 16 oz bottle of soda! It's important to emphasize here that this only for added sugars.
Digested with fiber, protein, or other food components, natural sugars have less impact on blood sugar and come from sources that aid with satiety. Containing vitamins, minerals, and/or disease-fighting antioxidants, sources of natural sugar are not worth dropping from your diet because they often provide more benefit than harm. Finding it difficult to track your added sugar intake? The FDA’s proposal for changing nutrition labels to include “added sugars” should help with any sugar confusion. In the meantime, the fooducate app is a great daily resource.
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I'm Lexi, a Certified Sports Dietitian and Yoga Instructor. I work with individuals to help them reach optimum health and performance through balanced nutrition.