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Episode 37: The New USDA Guidelines, Yea, or Nay?


The New USDA Guidelines, Yea, or Nay?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) publishes its dietary guidelines once every 5 years. The first dietary guidelines came about in 1977 and were titled ‘Dietary Goals for the United States‘. There was a committee called the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition & Human Needs, which was initially formed with the agenda of forming programs to eliminate hunger. Later, the committee expanded its focus and started issuing dietary guidelines. The committee recognized that healthy diets play a crucial role in promoting health, increasing productivity, and reducing healthcare costs. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 were released just published in December 2020.

Key Takeaways:

Listen to this timely and informational podcast episode and learn about:

  • The first edition dietary guidelines published in 1977
  • Why and how America was pushed into a ‘low-fat era’
  • The latest dietary guidelines by the USDA
  • The 85/15 rule for a healthier lifestyle
  • How to incorporate nutrient-dense food and beverages into your diet

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines First Edition, 1977:

  1. Increase carbohydrate consumption to account for 55 to 60 percent of the energy (caloric) intake.
  2. Reduce overall fat consumption from approximately 40 to 30 percent energy intake.
  3. Reduce saturated fat consumption to account for about 10 percent of total energy intake; and balance that with poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats, which should account for about 10 percent energy each.
  4. Reduce cholesterol consumption to about 300mg a day.
  5. Reduce sugar consumption by about 40 percent to account for about 15 percent of total energy intake
  6. Reduce salt consumption by about 50 to 85 percent to approximately 3 grams a day.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Latest Dietary Guidelines, 2020-25:

  1. Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.
  2. Customized and enjoyed nutrient-dense food and beverage choices reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.
  3. Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages and stay within calorie limits.
  4. Limit foods and beverages high in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Limit alcoholic beverages.

Core Elements that Make Up a Healthy Dietary Pattern (Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-25): 

  1. Vegetables of all types—dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables
  2. Fruits, especially whole fruit
  3. Grains, at least half of which are whole grain
  4. Dairy, including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, and/or lactose-free versions and fortified soy beverages and yogurt as alternatives
  5. Protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products
  6. Oils, including vegetable oils and oils in food, such as seafood and nuts

Additional Recommendations by the USDA:

  1. Added sugar should be limited to about 10% of the calorie intake starting at age 2. Avoid foods and beverages with added sugars for those younger than age 2.
  2. Saturated fat, less than 10% of the calories should be from saturated fat starting at age 2.
  3. For sodium, less than 2300 mg per day and even less for children younger than age 14.
  4. For alcohol, they say less than 2 drinks for men and less than 1 drink for women, per day. Drinking less is better for health than drinking more. There are some adults who should not drink alcohol, such as women who are pregnant.
  5. Shift way to consume protein. Incorporate subgroups other than meats, poultry, and eggs (seafood, nuts, beans, soy products, seeds).
  6. Replace high-fat meats (bacon, sausages) with seafood, beans, peas, and lentils, which help reduce saturated fat intake and increase dietary fiber intake.
  7. Shift cooking medium vegetable oil in place of fats high in saturated fat, including butter, shortening, lard, or coconut oil.
  8. Drink beverages that are calorie-free (water) or that contribute beneficial nutrients.


United States Department of Agriculture:

“A healthy dietary pattern doesn’t have much room for extra added sugar, saturated fat, or sodium, or for alcoholic beverages.”


” Planning meals and snacks in advance with food groups and nutrient-dense foods and beverages in mind can support healthy eating at home and improve dietary patterns of individuals and families.


“Preparing meals with family and friends also presents an opportunity for greater connection and enjoyment around food.”



Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025


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