Since 1980, the federal government has issued new dietary guidelines every five years in a document published by the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. The latest edition, “The 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” is out and has launched a campaign tagged, “Make every bite count.” There are two main takeaways.
For the first time, dietary recommendations for infants and toddlers have been included. It notes that children under age 2 should consume no added sugars. Added sugars, including honey, are found in processed foods like sodas and breakfast cereals. Natural sugars found in milk and fruit are not a problem.
Starting at age 2, sugar in the diet should be limited to less than 10% of daily calories.
This number wasn’t the first choice of the scientific committee, made up of 20 doctors and academics. It had recommended limiting added sugars to 6% of daily calories, because of health- related issues linked to added sugars, like obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The new guidelines also did not take the scientific committee’s recommendation for alcohol, which was lowering consumption of alcoholic beverages for men from two drinks a day to one. That would match the recommended drink limit for women, which is one per day. Research has shown greater alcoholic consumption is linked to a higher risk of death.
That these quantitative recommendations were not followed is the second big takeaway. According to a press release, this happened because “there was not a preponderance of evidence in the material the committee reviewed to support specific changes, as required by law.”
The new guidelines advise people to follow a healthy dietary pattern focusing on consuming nutrient-dense foods like veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean meat and poultry and low-fat dairy, as well as seafood, nuts and vegetable oils. Also, people should avoid added saturated fats and sodium and follow recommended calorie limits.
To assist in getting on a healthy lifestyle program, USDA offers the Start Simple with MyPlate program at myplate.gov. The website is packed with ways to make healthy food choices.
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