Updated dietary guidelines that recommend limits on salt, added sugar and saturated fat were recently issued by the federal government. The guidelines also dropped longstanding cholesterol warnings and OK’d coffee.
If keeping track of how much added sugar you eat sounds scary, don’t worry. The guidelines aren’t hard to follow if you limit processed foods and eat plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean meats, said Chrisanne Urban, a Marshfield Clinic registered dietitian.
She explained the new recommendations and what they mean for your diet.
Limit salt and added sugar
For the first time, the dietary guidelines recommend an added sugar limit.
Added sugar should make up less than 10 percent of your daily calories. That’s 50 grams of added sugar or about 12 teaspoons in a 2,000-calorie diet.
One can of soda has 10 teaspoons, but it’s not always clear which foods have added sugar, Urban said.
Stay within the 10 percent limit by choosing water instead of soda and fruit instead of processed sweets.
Eating more fresh foods will help you stay within the new sodium recommendation of 2,300 milligrams per day, or 1 teaspoon of salt. The previous recommended limit was 3,000 mg.
Most Americans eat too much salt, which can lead to high blood pressure.
“A lot of sodium comes from processed food,” Urban said. “A key recommendation is cooking from scratch and seasoning food with herbs and spices.”
Fats more concerning than cholesterol
The guidelines no longer include the 300 mg limit on cholesterol and recommend people eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.
The change doesn’t mean you can eat all the high-cholesterol foods you want. Nor should you aim for a diet with no cholesterol. Consume cholesterol-rich foods in moderation, Urban said.
Shift your attention to limiting foods that are high in saturated and trans fats like high-fat dairy, fatty meats and baked goods. Too much of these fats can increase your blood cholesterol and risk for heart disease.
The new guidelines recommend less than 10 percent of your daily calories come from saturated fat.
Good news for coffee drinkers
The new guidelines indicate a healthy diet can include three to five 8-ounce cups of coffee per day.
“That means coffee isn’t bad for you, not that you should start drinking it,” Urban said. “Studies haven’t shown clear benefits of coffee.”
She cautioned coffee drinkers to skip flavored syrups and high-fat dairy in their morning caffeine fix.
Dietary guidelines in daily life
“It’s hard for busy people to count how many milligrams of salt they’re taking in,” Urban said. “Eat a variety of fresh fruits and veggies and more whole grains. Your diet should be colorful.”
Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov for help making a well-balanced meal.
Talk to a registered dietitian about specific dietary recommendations for you.
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