USDA Guidelines: what you need to know

01.12.16 |

Getting to the truth of new guidelines

Last week, the USDA announced a new set of dietary guidelines and with that announcement came a wave of analysis. The challenge for consumers can be wading through the many voices in the debate to get to the truth of the matter—what are the guidelines recommending and how well do these guidelines align with the latest, most trustworthy research on research? This task made even more difficult when politics come into play. If dietary guidelines suggest eating less of a particular type of food, an entire industry is likely to react negatively out of their own financial self-interest.

Interpreting the guidelines

To make your health journey less complicated, let’s hit the highpoints of the new guidelines and talk about how it affects your goals and your Habits of Health.

  • The guidelines, in general, recommend adopting Mediterranean-style eating habits. If you are following the Habits of Health, good news: The Habits of Health system already aligns with this suggestion. We are more mindful of portions, encourage the consumption of more plant-based foods than the average American consumes currently, and we also encourage physical activity.
  • The USDA has taken a distinct departure from recommending the consumption of specific nutrients and instead talks in simpler terms about types of food. This doesn’t mean that these nutrients are any less important. Instead, the USDA is trying to make eating healthy more user friendly.
  • The big exception here is sugar. The USDA wants Americans to consume much less of it. I wrote previously about how cutting back on sugar can be difficult because of how often it is hidden in our foods. Again, the USDA recommendation of limiting added sugars to no more than 10 percent of your daily calories is in line with the Habits of Health philosophy. Perhaps more exciting is that the USDA stance on sugar may actually make food labels easier to read, according to the New York Times.
  • In this iteration, the USDA guidelines recommend that Americans—especially men and teenage boys—consume less protein in the form of meats, poultry, and eggs. At first glance, this may sound like a big deal, but this guideline is less about meats being bad for you and more about finding a balance. Men of all ages are simply not eating enough vegetables and are instead getting those calories from meat. In that sense, “less meat” means “more vegetables,” which is again a key Habit of Health.

Health news can be confusing and at times can feel ominous. Know that “new” guidelines don’t necessarily mean a complete departure from the best practices we already have. In our case, the Habits of Health have stood the test of time and continue to ride what others consider the cutting edge of health & wellness. Whenever there is a big change or news item in the health world, check back here. We’ll help you make sense of it.

In the meantime, keep building your Habits of Health!