New Dietary Guidelines Released by USDA

By , Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
UPDATE 5/17/21:  Dietary Guidelines for 2020-2025 are now available.

This week, the USDA and HSS released their
2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In addition to serving as a handy tool for planning your own personal meals, these guidelines, which are only released once every five years, also influence the nutritional content of school lunches and federal food programs across the country.

Much of the report reinforces the same best practices we've been hearing for decades, like eating plenty of fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean protein. But there are also some new recommendations that may surprise you.

Cracking Down on Sugar

For the first time ever, the USDA has issued a specific limit on sugar intake. According to the report, added sugars should make up no more than 10 percent of our daily calorie intake (preferably less). If you're eating 2,000 calories a day, that's a mere 200 calories, or a little over 12 teaspoons—roughly equivalent to a can of regular soda. This number refers specifically to added sugars, not the natural sugars that are found in fruits, veggies and some dairy products.

Are you consuming too much added sugar? See our tips on breaking your sugar addiction.

Giving Cholesterol a Pass

After spending decades as a nutritional villain, cholesterol gets a bit of a reprieve in the new report. Although the UDSA still recommends keeping dietary cholesterol to a minimum, they've lifted the specific cap of 300 milligrams per day. This goes along with recent research showing that dietary cholesterol has less of an impact on blood cholesterol (aka: the dangerous type) as previously thought. So go ahead and enjoy the occasional egg—the benefits of the protein, antioxidants and vitamin/mineral content will likely outweigh any cholesterol-associated risk.

Keep in mind that diet is only responsible for about 20 percent of your cholesterol levels. Find out what other factors influence your cholesterol.

Bye Bye, Bad Fats

Saturated fats are known to increase the risk of heart disease, so it's no surprise that the USDA frowns upon them. This latest report recommends that saturated fats—found primarily in animal fat products like butter, cheese, whole mik, bacon and fatty meats—make up no more than 10 percent of daily caloric intake.

Need help finding healthier fat sources? See our fats reference guide for specific food guidelines.

Too Much Protein for Males?

Another surprising takeaway from the USDA's new report is that teen boys and men are eating too much meat, poultry and eggs. Specifically, the report states that "average intakes of meats, poultry and eggs, a subgroup of the protein foods group, are above recommendations in the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern for teen boys and adult men." However, the actual protein intake recommendations for men and women are still the same as they were five years ago.

Looking for alternate protein sources? Find out how to meet your protein needs without meat.

What do you think of the new dietary guidelines? How does your nutrition plan measure up?