Skip to Content

Federal guidelines recommend healthy eating patterns to prevent chronic diseases


By the American Heart Association News

New federal dietary guidelines announced on Thursday for the first time recommend Americans eat far less sugar and focus on a day-to-day pattern of eating a variety of nutritious, balanced foods.

Citing the fact that most Americans consume too much saturated fat, sodium and added sugar, the guidelines suggested daily goals of less than 2,300 milligrams of dietary sodium, less than 10 percent of total calories from saturated fat and a maximum of 10 percent of total calories from added sugar.

“By recommending less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars, the guidelines give Americans clear direction on how much sugar they can consume and still keep their weight and health in check,” American Heart Association President Mark Creager, MD, director of the Heart and Vascular Center at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, said in a statement.

The guidelines also notably dropped dietary cholesterol limits and draft recommendations that had suggested Americans adopt more environmentally-sustainable eating habits by cutting back on meat.

Issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans shape public policy, including school lunches and federal assistance programs, influence food manufacturers and affect diet advice. They’ve been updated every five years since 1980.

The guidelines pointed out that most people don’t get enough of some nutrients, including vitamins D, A, E, and C, calcium, potassium, magnesium, choline and fiber.

This comes from too many nutrient-void, calorie-rich foods like sugary drinks, refined sugary grain products like cakes, cookies and pies and high sodium processed foods, said Rachel Johnson, PhD, RD, professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

The guidelines recommend a healthy eating pattern such as the Mediterranean or DASH-style diets. Common features of both diets include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fish. Both are limited in red meat and foods containing saturated fats, which are mostly found in animal-based products such as meat, butter, cheese and full-fat dairy.

While not part of the guidelines themselves, Creager pointed out that if consumers were better informed about what was in their food, it could encourage them to eat better.

“Food manufacturers should make sure their labels contain information that help consumers understand with clarity just what nutrients are present in the foods that they’re purchasing,” Creager said.

The same goes for restaurants, he said.

The USDA has released it's new dietary guidelines.