USDA and Health and Human Services (HHS) today released the long-awaited 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) that call for consumption of a variety of nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy, lean meats and other protein foods and oils, while limiting saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars and sodium. Key changes from the 2010 DGAs include dropping the limit on dietary cholesterol (2010 DGAs recommended less than 300 mg per day) and changes to sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and added sugar intake.

Judie Bizzozero, Content Director

January 7, 2016

8 Min Read
2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Finally Released

USDA and Health and Human Services (HHS) today released the long-awaited 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) that call for consumption of a variety of nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy, lean meats and other protein foods and oils, while limiting saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars and sodium. Key changes from the 2010 DGAs include dropping the limit on dietary cholesterol (2010 DGAs recommended less than 300 mg per day) and changes to sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and added sugar intake.

Published every five years, the DGAs are intended for Americans ages 2 years and over, including those at increased risk of chronic disease, and provide the basis for federal food and nutrition policy and education initiatives. The guidelines encourage Americans to focus on eating a healthful diet—one that focuses on foods and beverages that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health and prevent disease.

The most recent guidelines are based on the 2015 Scientific Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) that identified a healthy dietary pattern as higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains. The report, released in February 2015, sparked heated debates and lobbying efforts from the meat, poultry, egg and beverage sectors that helped stave off some of the report’s reduction recommendations.

The Guidelines

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.

  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.

  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.

  5. Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.

Key Recommendations

The 2015 DGAs outline a healthy eating pattern that include:

  • Vegetables—dark green, red and orange, legumes, starchy and other vegetables.

  • Fruits—primarily whole fruits (cut up, cooked, canned, frozen and dried fruits) and fruit juices.
    Grains—whole grains should account for 50 percent of total grain consumption.

  • Dairy—more nutrient-dense fat-free or low-fat form from milk (including lactose-free milk), yogurt, and cheese or from fortified soy beverages (soymilk).

  • Protein—increasing variety in protein foods choices and to make more nutrient-dense choices, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, soy products, and nuts and seeds.

  • Oils—Plant-based oils such as canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean and sunflower, and oils naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives and avocados. (Coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils (tropical oils) are solid at room temperature because they have high amounts of saturated fatty acids and are therefore classified as a solid fat rather than as an oil).

In term of limitations, the new guidelines recommend:

  • Less than 10 percent of daily calories should come from added sugars

  • Less than 10 percent of daily calories should come from saturated fat.

  • Adults and children ages 14 years and over limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day and children younger than 14 years should consume even less sodium (1,500-2,200 depending on age).

  • Alcohol should be consumed in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Industry Weighs In on New DGAs

 “Meat and poultry products are among the most nutrient dense foods available. They are rich sources of complete protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins, and many peer reviewed studies show the contributions they make to healthy diets and the potential deficiencies that can occur when people exclude animal proteins," said North American Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter.  “The Dietary Guidelines confirm that a variety of dietary patterns can be followed to achieve a healthy eating pattern. Consumers who choose to eat meat and poultry, as 95 percent of Americans do, can continue to enjoy our products as they have in the past."

— North American Meat Institute

“The U.S. has joined many other countries and expert groups like the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology that do not have an upper limit for cholesterol intake in their dietary guidelines," said Mitch Kanter, PhD, Executive Director of the Egg Nutrition Center. In reality, and as supported in the 2015 DGA, eggs fit within all three recommended healthy dietary patterns—the Healthy U.S.-style, the Healthy Mediterranean-style and the Healthy Vegetarian-style. Eggs are all-natural and packed with a number of nutrients. One egg has varying amounts of 13 essential vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, all for 70 calories. Eggs are also one of the few natural foods that are a good source of vitamin D, which was identified by the 2015 DGA as a nutrient of concern for under-consumption and necessary for helping to build strong bones. The removal of a daily dietary cholesterol limit and inclusion of eggs within all recommended healthy eating patterns supports regular consumption of eggs along with other nutrient-rich whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. As an affordable, nutrient-rich source of high-quality protein, eggs can help Americans build healthful diets.

— American Egg Board

“The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans strongly recommends that all Americans significantly increase their consumption of vegetables and fruit to improve their health. For the first time, and to reinforce the significance of eating more vegetables and fruits, this recommendation tops the list of ways to improve eating habits and health. Decades of research indicates that a diet high in vegetables and fruit is consistently associated with positive health outcomes and a decreased risk of chronic disease. Noting that three-fourths of the U.S. population consumes a diet that is low in vegetables and fruits, the new Dietary Guidelines recommends that individuals shift their eating habits to eat more fruits and vegetables every day.  To improve public health, United Fresh urges policy makers to align all federal nutrition programs with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines to significantly increase access to fruits and vegetables and to consider a broad range of policy changes and educational strategies to make fruits and vegetables the easy choice for all Americans and to strengthen promotion of Choose My Plate’s key consumer message ‘make half your plate fruits and vegetables’."

— United Fresh Produce Association

“The Academy [Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics] supported the committee’s evidence-based systematic review of the scientific literature, which is vital to assessing the current and emerging state of the science in food and nutrition. We commend HHS and USDA for their commitment to the Nutrition Evidence Library and their ongoing efforts to strengthen the evidence-based approach for assessing the scientific literature for future dietary recommendations," Academy President Dr. Evelyn F. Crayton said. The Academy supports the key recommendations of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, which recommend that everyone “consume a healthy eating pattern that accounts for all foods and beverages within an appropriate calorie level." The overall pattern of food eaten is the most important focus of healthy eating and has been related to a decrease in prevalence of chronic disease.

— Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

“We appreciate the extensive work in developing the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. We fully support the goal to help Americans achieve and maintain a healthy weight.  America's beverage companies are doing their part to help people manage their calorie and sugar intake by providing a wide range of beverage choices, a variety of package sizes and clear, easy-to-read calorie information— on package and at point of purchase— to help them make the choice that's right for them.  With our Balance Calories Initiative, we are working toward a common goal of reducing beverage calories in the American diet. This is a meaningful initiative that will have significant real world impact in helping people reduce their consumption of calories and sugar from beverages."
— American Beverage Association

“Water, including bottled water, helps people pursue a healthy lifestyle and avoid sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and we are happy to see the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) reflect this important fact," said IBWA President and CEO, Joe Doss. “Water also plays a vital role in supporting nutritional health. Because 47 percent of added sugars in our diets come from beverages—and 20 percent of our daily caloric intake—it is clear that Americans need guidance on how to be more aware of what they drink and to reduce their calorie consumption from beverages." The 2015 DGAs provide strong support for the important role played by water in Americans’ diets, and support the increased access to and availability of water as a healthy beverage choice. In particular, the new DGAs note that calorie-free beverages—especially water—should be the primary beverages consumed. In addition, the 2015 DGAs encourage a shift to healthier food and beverage choices, which “include choosing beverages with no added sugars, such as water, in place of sugar-sweetened beverages ..."

— International Bottled Water Association (IBWA)

The most recent research shows replacing saturated and trans fats with either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats lowers the risk of chronic diseases. However, polyunsaturated fats cannot deliver the functionality required by many categories in the food industry. In 2015, Americans spent more on food away from home than in grocery stores. Since prepared foods are such a large, critical part of our diet, using oil that delivers health and performance benefits is more important than ever before. Oils high in monounsaturated fat, such as Omega-9 Canola Oil, offer the stability, taste and health benefits needed by the food industry today.

— Dow AgroSciences

About the Author(s)

Judie Bizzozero

Content Director, Informa Markets Health & Nutrition

Judie Bizzozero oversees food and beverage content strategy and development for the Health & Nutrition group at Informa Markets (which acquired VIRGO in 2014), including the Food & Beverage Insider, Natural Products Insider and SupplySide/Food ingredients North America brands. She reports on market trends, science-based ingredients, and challenges and solutions in the development of healthy foods and beverages. Bizzozero graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

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