Did you know the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Department first issued dietary guidelines back in 1980? These guidelines are updated every five years, and the norm has always been for Americans to consume more fruits and vegetables, lean meat, and low-fat foods. These guidelines affect foods chosen for the school lunch program and help shape national food assistance programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
New Sugar Cut Backs
This year, the dietary guidelines suggest you cut back on sugar, specifically to limit added sugars to 10% of your daily calories. Let me just say, “WOW!” For those of us who love our sugar this is hard to swallow. Cakes, cookies and pastries will take a hit if most Americans abide by the new guidelines. In addition to this, the guidelines urge that at least half of the grains we eat be whole grains not refined and stripped of their essential nutrients. Refined grains amount to empty calories and are often times not much better than eating straight sugar. In addition to this, refined grains can quickly turn into sugar when digested. These changes will also affect Americans who consume soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks. According to an article on npr.org, Americans have a large sugar habit, consuming 22 teaspoons a day. This means that many of us would have to cut our sugar intake in half.
The World Health Organization and other groups have given similar advice and have cited evidence that cutting back on sugar could lower one’s risk of obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
Limiting sugars will be easier to do once the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed label change requires food and beverage firms to disclose the amount of added sugar as a way to help track one’s intake. Since 2010, there has also been an overall recommendation to reduce saturated fat intake to less than 10% of your daily diet, a shift that could, in practice, require limiting the intake of red meat.
The dietary guidelines originally suggested teenage boys and men cut back on red meat. However, this was dropped to recommend men and boys reduce their overall intake of protein foods like meat, poultry, and eggs, and that they add more vegetables to their diets.
The dietary guidelines influence everything from the national school lunch program to the advice you get at the doctor’s office. Paying closer attention to food and beverage labels is important if you are following the recommended dietary guidelines, and reading food packaging labels can help you evaluate components such as the serving size, calories, and vitamins. For more information on evaluating labels check out our blog “Confused by Labels.”
Do you follow the dietary guidelines issued by the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Department? Stay tuned for more information on the change in labels!