5 Ways the U.S. Dietary Guidelines May Change

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
by Trinh Le, MPH, RD
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5 Ways the U.S. Dietary Guidelines May Change

Knowing what to eat and how much can be a frustrating affair especially when nutrition research surfaces new or conflicting evidence almost on a weekly basis. To help those of us in the U.S. make sense of the science, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides evidence-based nutrition information and advice encouraging Americans to eat a healthful diet, achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health, and prevent disease. These guidelines are important not just as dietary advice; they become the foundation for decisions the government makes when writing new laws and creating new programs.

To keep things current, the Dietary Guidelines are reviewed by an advisory committee every 5 years, and this year will mark it’s 8th edition release. Here are 5 potential changes currently on the table that could have a big impact on what, and how much we eat:

1. CAPPING ADDED SUGARS Sugar added to processed or prepared foods increases the calories without upping the food’s nutritional quality. While past Dietary Guidelines loosely advised us to eat less calories from sugar, the 2015 draft version may recommend a specific limit on added sugars of 10% of total calorie intake.

2. LESSENING SALT RESTRICTIONS Eating too much sodium (found in salt) on a daily can increase your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Currently, the 2010 Guidelines recommends capping sodium at 2,300 milligrams per day for the average American and 1,500 milligrams per day for 51+ year olds, African-Americans and people with high blood pressure and/or kidney disease. While the 2015 version might keep the recommendations the same they may not emphasize sodium as much since the evidence for eating less than 2300 milligrams seems to offer little to no added health benefits.

3. ACTUALLY SAYING “EAT LESS MEAT” To play nice with farmers and the meat industry in general, the government previously made recommendations on eating leaner cuts of meat for high-quality protein rather than less of it. The panel revising the current Dietary Guidelines is not so sure this is actually what’s best for our health though. The drafted recommendations for 2015 may just come out and say that a healthy diet includes fewer “red and processed meats”–much to the dismay of the meat industry, of course.

4. RECONSIDERING CAFFEINE The current Guidelines make no mention of caffeine however, given the murky evidence around it’s safety during pregnancy, the 2015 revisions may recommend pregnant women moderate their caffeine consumption by capping intake to less than 200 milligrams (about 2 cups) per day.

5. EMBRACING THE ENVIRONMENT Sustainable eating has been discussed before until this point, the health of the environment and the health of Americans have remained two very separate issues. The 2015 version may put forth actual recommendations to promote sustainability as the idea that environmental health impacts our own grows in popularity. This could come across as yet another jab at the meat industry since its production has significant environmental implications.

About the Author

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh is a registered dietitian by day, blogger at Fearless Food RD by night. She loves helping folks develop a better relationship with food, which includes lots of cooking, eating and learning about nutrition. When she’s not snapping mouthwatering shots of (mostly) healthy food, you can find Trinh HIIT-ing it at her local gym. For more, connect with her on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.


12 responses to “5 Ways the U.S. Dietary Guidelines May Change”

  1. Patrick says:

    Interesting article. The second change regarding sodium intake confuses me though. It seems the American Heart Association and the CDC are getting stricter and lowering their recommended daily intake to 1500 mg but this government panel thinks it’s not an issue that needs lowered or emphasized. How should we take that? Which stance is correct? Some consistency between health experts would be a welcome change.

    • George says:

      According to the article, the current 2010 recommendations were for 1500 mg for the listed at-risk populations. So, it doesn’t sound like they will be lowering it (even if they keep it the same). Science is slow, especially when it is difficult to do double-blind studies.

      • Patrick says:

        Yep and the new American Heart Association recommendations are for 1500 mg for everyone. Sometimes the different guidelines make things confusing but I guess the takeaway is 1500 is great if you can get there but definitely stay under 2300.

  2. Lyss says:

    Murky evidence for caffeine consumption for pregnant woman? There’s actually no difinitive corrilation, and def no causation, for caffeine consumption increasing risk for low risk pregnant woman or their babies.

  3. Karen Kaye says:

    FYI: “Its” does not need an apostrophe to show possession as in “its 8th edition.” “It’s” always means “it is.”
    Food guidelines should not have a political or environmental bias. The body needs what it needs. How nourishment is obtained is an individual choice.

  4. Sara says:

    I would say many Americans don’t actually know what a serving of meat actually is…so I think that is a somewhat jaded comment. Also, what is “sustainable” food?? I’m sure most would call that organic, but the fact of the matter is, is that we produce enough food to feed the world because of conventional production methods. Also, please note that there is a far smaller carbon footprint from the production of a pound of meat today than the production of the same in 1940. (Even though 1940 “family farm” ideals are what are expected for production) Clearing additional land for organic farming however, is not sustainable for food production. Please do real research, and not make broad assumptions about how food is produced.

    • “Sustainable” usually just means that we don’t do things like overfishing & allow the population to grow to sustain the species & ecosystem. That’s why many fish are now being farmed, because it’s not creating such a bad impact on the environment. But it can also relate to subjects like deforestation. Ie. They’re having to make less bamboo chopsticks in Asia, because the bamboo forest is being cut down faster than it can grow, and the demand is so high it’s unsustainable. I think that’s what they’re referring to.

  5. I think it’s important to remember we need to eat iodized salt- it’s essential. Everyone (the news in particular) keeps saying to eat less, but what many of us are doing is depriving ourselves of an essential nutrient. I avoided salt for years for fear of higher blood pressure- but I fell into the trap of the other extreme where I’m not adding salt, or eating processed foods anymore- and that can be detrimental to your health. I started having low blood pressure & heart palpitations… and when I went into the cardiologist, do you know what he told me? Put a teaspoon of salt in every 16oz bottle of water that I drink (I drink 6-7 bottles a day)! So please continue eating salt- and if you don’t have a medical reason like hypertension to cut back, just continue eating what you’re eating. If your concern is having too much water weight, take some potassium- or buy some Morton’s lite salt because it’s a sodium/potassium chloride mix. It helps since potassium is a natural diuretic. Ultimately, may everyone be blessed with good health & never need to worry.

    • BJ says:

      Good point, but you’re probably an exception to the rule. Most people get more than enough salt in their diets, and unless told otherwise by a health professional, they shouldn’t feel the need to consume table salt as a supplement. You’re right – avpiding extremes is the key.

      • liquidsunshine says:

        You’re right. The majority of the population consume way too much salt. It’s in everything. Canned products, such as vegetables, chili, and soups. It’s in the cartons of broth you buy. And lots of it. Ice cream, salt. Pizza, loaded with salt. Spaghetti sauce, salt. I only use Pink Himalayan Sea Salt and I use it sparingly. Rarely have canned veggies. 99% of what we eat, is Not processed. My husband went out for lunch this past weekend. He went out for lunch. Something he hasn’t done in a couple of years. Spent the next couple of days being sick. Why? Too much sodium. He can’t eat salt, and if he does, it must be in small quantities, as he has Stage 3 kidney disease. His body can’t process that amount of sodium. Thus the reason I cook and keep our meals healthy. So, for anyone to say they should just keep consuming salt, is not good advice.

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