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The 2015 New Dietary Guidelines Explained

Get the scoop on what’s changed in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the US Department of Health, HHS and the USDA.

The 2015 New Dietary Guidelines Explained

Over the past year, developments regarding cholesterol, added sugar, salt, and red and processed meat emerged. With obesity rates and chronic diseases on the rise, many health professionals scratched their heads after the new guidelines seemed to dismiss some of those important findings, specifically regarding red and processed meats. Regardless, the new Dietary Guidelines stresses a healthful eating pattern in all stages of life.

Establishing the Guidelines

The Dietary Guidelines are recommendations published by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and of Agriculture (USDA). Under the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, HHS and USDA must utilize the most current nutrition data and research to formulate and develop the guidelines. To stay atop of research, the guidelines are produced every five years and contain nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public.

Furthermore, the Dietary Guidelines can be thought of as a road map. Professionals utilize the guidelines to help drive individuals ages 2 years and older and their family to consume a healthy and adequate diet. The guidelines also aid in the development of Federal food, nutrition, and health policies and programs as well as HHS and USDA food programs and nutrition education materials. These guidelines act as the communication in a wide variety of day-to-day settings; including businesses, schools, community groups, media, the food industry, and State and local governments.

What's New to You?

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced red meat is probably a carcinogen, or cancer-causing. Additionally, sufficient and convincing evidence concludes processed meat is carcinogenic. Subsequently, the red and processed meat findings did not land on the final draft of the Dietary Guidelines after protests from the National Cattleman's Beef Association.

Regardless of the new scientific research and evidence, the Dietary Guidelines emphasized a healthful eating pattern across the lifespan. Previously, poor health and associated chronic diseases were thought to arise from individual food groups and nutrients. Since diets embody more than single food groups and nutrients, the new 2015-2020 guidelines suggest healthy eating patterns and regular physical activity can contribute to overall good health and reduce chronic disease.

The five new guidelines state the following:

1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan.

2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount.

3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.

4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.

5. Support healthy eating patterns for all.

Furthermore, key recommendations suggest healthy eating patterns should be applied in its entirety, as all single nutrients have impacted relationships on one another. The Dietary Guidelines state a healthy eating pattern includes: a variety of vegetables; fruits, especially whole fruits; grains; at least half as whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy; and a variety of protein foods including sources such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, and nuts; and healthful oils. A healthy eating pattern limits saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium. Specifically, consumed less than 10 percent of calories per day for both saturated fats and added sugars and consumed less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium.

Regardless of the red and processed meat dismissal, the guidelines still stress limiting saturated fat and salt intake. Saturated fat is high in red meats whereas saturated fat and salt is more than adequate in most processed meats. The guidelines also suggest teen boys and men reduce their protein intake. The guidelines seem to passively suggest a reduction of red and processed meats without a distinct statement. Additionally, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed separating "added sugar" and "natural sugar" on nutritional food labels for consumer guidance. The reduction of added sugars may be an easier feat once the proposed "added sugar" label change comes into play.

Dietary Guidelines. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Available at:

Christy Zagarella's Photo
Written By Christy Zagarella, MS, RDN. Published on January 27, 2016. Updated on February 19, 2016.


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