You aren’t the only one making intentions to eat healthier in 2016. This past Thursday, the Obama administration released the most recent update to the Dietary Guidelines.
These guidelines serve as the basis for nutritional advice, policies, and programs for United States citizens. Published every five years, the guidelines are designed to promote health and help individuals maintain a healthy weight.
The biggest change this year is the new ruling on sugar. Americans are now encouraged to limit their sugar intake to no more than 10 percent of their daily calories. This might spur a dramatic shift in many citizens’ diets; an overwhelming amount of Americans consume up to 22 teaspoons of sugar per day. For a 2,000-calorie diet, the 10 percent target means no more than 12 teaspoons per day.
From NPR’s The Salt:
Over the past five years, a growing body of evidence has linked high levels of sugar consumption to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, even among Americans who are not overweight or obese.
Salt was another topic of discussion for this year’s guidelines, and Americans are now encouraged to consume no more than 2,300 mg of salt per day. This number is well below the current average consumption of 3,400 mg per day.
While many healthcare professionals and nutritionists agree on the negative ramifications of salt and sugar, red meat is a different story. It should be noted that these food guidelines can get pretty controversial, as the rulings have direct effects on national policies and regulations within the food industry.
Previously the advisory committee has recommend that Americans cut back on red meat, but this suggestion was met with a fierce response from the meat industry. The new guidelines do not have any specific instructions limiting red meat intake, though they do encourage consuming protein from alternative sources, such as nuts and seeds.
The suggestion to limit meat intake comes in more subtle form. For instance, the guidelines point out that many teen boys and adult men consume more than the recommended 26 ounces a week of protein from animal sources, so they should “reduce overall intake of protein foods by decreasing intakes of meat, poultry, and eggs.”
The committee also discussed including sustainability as a factor for establishing the guidelines, but the idea was nixed. And while some local government policies have mandated that menus include sodium and caloric content, the national ruling won’t kick in until December 2016.
One thing is for certain: Americans will have to switch up their food habits in order to adhere to the new regulations. NBC News spoke with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell:
“Today, about half of all American adults—117 million people—have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity,” Burwell and Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack say in an introduction to the report. “Rates of these chronic, diet-related diseases continue to rise, and they come not only with increased health risks, but also at high cost.”
The new regulations encourage a variety of vegetables, including leafy greens and legumes, whole fruits, whole grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy products, plant and nut-based oils, and a wide variety of protein.
Of course, it’s up to you whether or not you want to follow the guidelines. Lots of Americans still eat by their own rules, especially when it comes to healthy food choices.
Amanda Kohr is a 25-year-old writer and photographer with a penchant for yoga, food, and travel. She prefers to bathe in the moonlight rather than the sun, and enjoys living in a state of the three C’s: cozy, creative, and curious. When she’s not writing, you can find her driving her VW Bug, looking for the next roadside attraction or family diner. She also roams the internet at amandakohr.com and through Instagram.