Anyone wondering what the new federal dietary guidelines are saying? To me, it seems to all boil down to following a healthy diet.
- Eat enough food but not too much (keep your weight under control to avoid chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, etc.)
- Eat a variety of foods and beverages with nutrients from all food groups (fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats) but avoid the empty ones like sodas and junk food.
- Support healthy eating patterns for all (from home to school, to work and in the community). In other words, consider offering fruit as a snack in meetings instead of cookies; or offer water instead of sugary drinks to kids in community settings.
And here’s the big one: Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake. Calories from sugar should be less than 10 percent of our total calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s 200 calories or the equivalent of 50 grams of ADDED sugar. That’s 15 teaspoons ADDED sugar.
Don’t get added sugar confused with natural dairy sugar (lactose) in milk and yogurt or natural fruit sugar (fructose) in fruits. It’s the ADDED sugar that needs to be reduced! There are 17 teaspoons of sugar in a 20 oz. soda, 6 teaspoons in a small muffin, and 4-6 in sweetened yogurt. Cutting back on sugar could make us much healthier and reduce our risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Then there’s the SATURATED FAT in our diets that needs to be reduced to 10 percent of our total calories. Ten percent of 2,000 calories is 200 fat calories, or about 22 grams or less saturated fat in our diets. Saturated is everywhere — just like sugar! Saturated fat is mainly from animal sources but also coconut oil, palm oil, chocolate, etc.
My advice: eat smaller portions of meat; eat more plant-based proteins such as nuts, beans and peas; and eat more seafood/fish. Use olive or canola oil (monounsaturated fats) or other polyunsaturated oils in place of saturated fats (bad guy). The dietary guidelines don’t focus on cholesterol anymore.
In both the 2010 and 2015 guidelines, the government recommends limiting sodium to no more than 2,300 mg. That’s not too easy if you eat out just one meal. The salt shaker isn’t the main culprit — it’s the added salt and sodium compounds, especially in processed foods. Eat foods that are less processed and resemble real food! Start reading labels and limit foods that have more than 400 mg sodium per serving. Watch the sodium to help you have a healthier blood pressure and heart.
If you have trouble understanding how to make these changes, see a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at our Wellness Center. We can’t fix everything, but we can help you make great strides in leading a healthier life.
Linda Steakley, MS, RDN, LD