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The USDA dietary guidelines just dropped. What do they mean for you?

Every five years, the U.S. government puts out dietary guidelines, and the 2020 version recently dropped. There are no big changes in this set, but babies and toddlers are included for the first time ever. And, in case you haven’t been told a million times already, you eat too much sugar.

The USDA dietary guidelines are the foundation for programs like public school lunches. However, most people don’t give the government’s advice much consideration, let alone make an attempt to adhere to it. In fact, according to government reports, the vast majority of Americans only adopt about 60% of USDA guidelines into their eating habits.

In the final analysis, many of the USDA food suggestions remain the same as they’ve been for some time (eat lean meat and lots of fruits, vegetables, and grains), although there are a few significant recommendations, which we’ll discuss below.

Woman Eating Ice Cream
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You’re eating too much sugar

The USDA now says that kids are eating a dangerous amount of sugar. The new recommendations note that people should limit their children’s sugar intake to 10% of all calories they consume. In the future, the government believes that this number ought to be further reduced to 6%. That’s jaw-dropping because to live up to the proposed standard, every American would have to cut the amount of sugar they eat now by more than half.

In practical terms, that means you need to cut way down on sugar that comes from beverages (no more Coca-Cola for you!), candy, snacks, breakfast cereals, and more.

Eat three times per day

Three meals per day. That’s the recommendation. Don’t think about five-meal-per-day diets; they’re not on the menu. Neither is practicing intermittent fasting. Why? Because there is presently no scientific consensus on these subjects. However, the USDA concedes that there needs to be more research on those topics.

With that said, better diet quality is associated with three meals every day. However, the government notes that “consensus on clear definitions or distinctions between a meal versus a snack remains elusive.”

Men need to stop drinking so much

According to the report, men drink too much alcohol. The previous guidelines say men should stop at two drinks per day. The definition of that is a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor, a 12-ounce bottle of beer, or a 5-ounce glass of wine. In contrast, women should limit themselves to only one drink per day.

However, the USDA’s new guidelines put men and women on the same footing and recommend that both should limit themselves to just one drink per day. In fact, the New York Times quotes a USDA conference call in which experts said that drinking less is better for your health than drinking more.

Ultimately, the new guidelines depart significantly from older versions when it comes to alcohol consumption, especially since some older versions concluded that a moderate amount of drinking could actually help older people’s cognitive functions.

Forget traditional wisdom

Those of you who have children may recall your doctor telling you not to let your kids eat peanuts when they’re babies. Well, you can now safely toss that wisdom to the curb and shovel as many peanuts down your infant’s gullet as they can handle. (Peanut butter is probably safer than the actual nut.)

Why is that?

The answer is that the USDA now says that feeding babies foods that are known allergens could lower the child’s overall risk of developing food allergies as an adult. Moreover, if your baby hates broccoli, never fear. Feeding babies foods they hate right now could broaden their experiences and influence their tiny taste buds for the better.

However, as noted above, stop feeding your kid sugar!

Round Bowl And Pastries On The Table
Photo by Flo Dahm/Pexels

The pyramid scheme has ended

The new dietary guidelines remove the traditional food pyramid. Instead, the present edition simply renders advice such as the following:

  • Foods that are higher in added sugars, sodium, and saturated fat should be limited, as should alcoholic beverages.
  • Individuals should focus on staying within calorie limits and should eat nutrient-dense foods and beverages.
  • Enjoy nutrient-dense foods while adhering to cultural traditions, budgetary considerations, and personal preferences.
  • Adhere to a healthy dietary pattern during every stage of life.

Those interested in reading the USDA’s full guidelines can do so here. Plus, you can find a full list of nutrient-dense beverages and foods here. People who want to go the extra mile can also view a website put together by the USDA called MyPlate, which includes personalized resources to help people better adhere to general dietary guidelines.

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