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New dietary guidelines: 5 things nutrition experts want you to know – Rutland Herald

Posted: February 4, 2021 at 9:52 am

New federal dietary guidelines encourage Americans to focus more on eating healthy throughout life, to be flexible in their eating patterns and to cut down on empty calories.

The recommendations released every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services are designed to promote nutrition and prevent chronic disease.

The high prevalence of diabetes, cancer and heart disease could be reduced if people ate better, said Judith Wylie-Rosett, a professor of health promotion and nutrition research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. Chronic diseases are often related to obesity and poor nutritional habits.

Here are five important takeaways from nutrition experts:

The recommendations emphasize that healthy eating comes in many forms and can be adjusted to fit cultural traditions, personal tastes and different budgets.

Swapping out red meat, for example, doesnt mean people have to force down their least-favorite source of protein.

You can go with a plant-based diet or eat seafood, poultry and legumes rather than red meat, said Penny Kris-Etherton, a distinguished professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

The new focus on customization based on culture, budget and personal preference is a departure from the guidelines past one-size-fits-all approach to healthy eating.

For the first time, the guidelines say children under 2 should completely avoid foods and drinks with added sugars, such as cake, ice cream and fruit drinks.

But the guidance for added sugars otherwise remains unchanged, despite a report last summer from the dietary guidelines advisory committee that called for everyone ages 2 and older to cut consumption to 6% of daily calories, down from the currently recommended 10%.

Similarly, the guidelines stuck with previous advice on alcohol no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women in adults who choose to drink.

Sugar is often added to a variety of foods where you might not expect it, including bottled spaghetti sauce, ketchup, breads and cereals. Its important to read nutrition labels and select foods accordingly, Kris-Etherton said.


The guidelines for the first time outline recommendations by life stage, from birth through older adulthood. For example, babies should exclusively have breast milk for the first six months of life. If breastfeeding isnt an option, babies should be fed an iron-fortified infant formula.

In addition, the guidelines recognize that people 60 and older have slightly different nutritional needs. For instance, vitamin B12 deficiencies are more common in older people, so older adults are urged to eat the recommended amount of protein, a common source of B12, as well as B12-fortified foods.

Foods are not eaten in isolation but in a wide array of combinations over time a dietary pattern.

The idea, Wylie-Rosett said, is to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables rather than focusing on specific nutrients. For example, beta carotene is a plant pigment and antioxidant found in carrots and other vegetables.

There are over 600 carotenoids, but the only one we talk about is beta carotene, she said. Weve created our nutrient guides to avoid deficiencies, (but) what we need to do is focus on optimal health.

To that end, the guidelines recommend people vary their source of protein, fill half their plate with a mix of different fruits and vegetables, select low-fat dairy or soy alternatives, and avoid foods high in sugar, saturated fat and sodium.

The theme of the 164-page guideline is to make every bite count. That means avoiding high-calorie junk foods such as potato chips, cookies and calorie-laden (and nutrient-poor) fast foods in favor of healthier options, Kris-Etherton said.

Think whole grains, fruits and vegetables; vegetable oils instead of butter or coconut oil; and low-fat dairy and leaner proteins.

When you fill up on all the right foods, you dont want the other foods, because youre full and satisfied, Kris-Etherton said.

And the benefits multiply, she said. People will likely sleep better, be less stressed and have more energy to exercise.

It just goes on and on, she said. Good nutrition really helps with overall well-being.

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New dietary guidelines: 5 things nutrition experts want you to know - Rutland Herald

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