News to Chew: 5 Changes to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released a new set of dietary guidelines, updating the recommendations for how and what you eat, including eggs, meat, sugar, and more.

Why are the guidelines a big deal? They’re the authority when it comes to nutrition advice, as approved by the federal government, and they only get updated every 5 years. The recommendations, developed by an expert committee, set the standards for professionals, such as registered dietitians, as well as major organizations, like the national school lunch program—which in turn affects millions of Americans.

What does that have to do with you, and what’s on your plate? Even if you don’t sit down to read the guidelines yourself, they’re behind the advice you get from your doctor and other health professionals, and what you see on food labels. This latest update is a lot of the same commonsense advice you’ve been hearing in the past few years: eat more fruits, veggies, and whole grains, and go easy on sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. “We want people to understand that small positive changes can be very effective over time, and that’s what the guidelines help us do,” explains Kristen Gradley, RDN, LDN, and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

Here are a few notable changes:

  • Enjoy your eggs! For the first time, the guidelines didn’t put a daily limit on cholesterol. Don’t go crazy, but feel free to order that veggie omelette.
  • Coffee is okay: Three to five 8-ounce cups of drip coffee per day (up to 400 mg caffeine) can be part of a healthy diet. There’s no reason to start pounding espresso shots, but if you already have a coffee habit, you can sip easy.
  • Eat less meat: It seems teenage boys and men consume way too much meat (sorry, guys!). And everyone could be eating lean protein from healthier sources, such as fish, beans, and tofu.
  • Cut down on sugar: The limit dropped to no more than 10 percent of your daily calories. Nearly half of all added sugars consumed in the U.S. come from drinks, so consider skipping the soda and juice.
  • Focus on healthy habits: For the first time, the guidelines talk about eating patterns, rather than individual nutrients. So instead of counting every calorie, make a conscious effort to eat those fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods.

“The major point to take away is that all of these recommendations are to help you develop a healthy eating pattern,” says Gradley. “Which means we won’t focus on one or two foods, but the sum of them all. It’s what your diet is like over time, instead of one bite or one meal.”

For more information, check out the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines and the AND website.

What do you think of the new dietary guidelines? Join the conversation below.

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