New dietary guidelines say cut the added sugar

Published 2:02 pm Sunday, January 10, 2016

Cut the sugar and salt.

That’s what the new federal dietary guidelines released Thursday urge people to do. An Austin dietitian weighed in, agreeing that the guidelines — especially the need to cut down on those sugary 16-ounce drinks and salt — should serve as a good health base.

“The dietary guidelines relate to everyone ages two and up,” said Jen Haugen, a registered dietitian and blogger. “It’s a good base to know how to eat for the best health you can have.”

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elp Americans reduce their likelihood of disease and obesity through a more healthful diet.

The newest guidance comes down hard on sugar that’s added to food and drinks but says lean meat is a healthy protein and more eggs may be OK, despite years of advice to the contrary.

Haugen, Austin Public Schools’ food services dietitian, says the guidelines help set the base for future policies and it’s what school lunch menus are built on. Half of Americans have some form of a preventable chronic disease such as heart disease, stroke and obesity, she added.

“They are things that can be prevented through healthy eating and an active lifestyle,” Haugen said. “We all want to live for a long time.”

One of the newest guidelines stresses cutting out added sugar and it should be “no more than 10 percent of daily calories.”

But what does that amount to? Haugen says it depends on how many calories you eat in a day. For instance, if you have a 2,000 calorie diet, 10 percent would be 200 calories and that would equal a 12-ounce can of pop. Or it could also be a dessert that’s adding in the sugar.

The key to deciphering the sugar intake is to determine what’s added sugar and what’s natural sugar, Haugen says.

“Milk has 12 grams of natural sugar, but if you add sugar to your oatmeal in the mornings, that counts as added sugar,” Haugen said.

She added it’s important to try to eat all different colors of vegetables because there are many different nutrients in all the colors of vegetables such as dark green, orange and yellow. Also look for ways to reduce sodium, which most often comes from boxed/mixed foods. Balancing your plate was another factor Haugen stressed because what we eat every day does matter.

It’s also important to read nutrition labels, which have been improved over time, and see what’s added and what’s natural.

“It will give us a better idea when purchasing food,” Haugen said.

Haugen reiterated the importance of making small changes instead of big changes.

“It’s not about a total change, it’s making small changes, trying that out and then adding more small changes,” Haugen said. “You can have added sugar, but be mindful of how much you intake.”

U.S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack voiced the same sentiments, telling people that “Small changes can add up to big differences.”

The Agriculture Department, which released the guidelines along with the Department of Health and Human Services, is also putting out a tweaked version of its healthy “My Plate” icon to include a new slogan: “My Wins.”

The dietary guidelines are updated every five years and this set is meant to last until 2020.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Highlights from the new federal dietary guidelines:

Lean meat is OK

As in previous years, the government says lean meat is part of a more healthful diet. Buried deeper in the report, though, is language that suggests teenage boys and adult men should reduce meat and eat more vegetables. Government data show that males from 14 to 70 consume more than recommended amounts of meat, eggs and poultry, while women are more in line with advised amounts.

Cut out the sugary sodas

One new recommendation is that added sugar should be no more than 10 percent of daily calories. That’s about 200 calories a day, around the amount in one 16-ounce sugary drink. The recommendation is part of a larger push to help consumers isolate added sugars from naturally occurring ones like those in fruit and milk. According to the guidelines, sugary drinks comprise 47 percent of the added sugars that Americans drink and eat every day.

Too much salt

New figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show around 90 percent of people eat too much salt. The average person eats 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, and the guidelines say everyone should lower that to 2,300, or about a teaspoon.

Lowering sodium intake was the major push of the 2010 guidelines, and that document recommended that those most at risk of heart disease, or about half the population, lower their intake to 1,500 milligrams. The new guidelines delete that lower amount as part of the top recommendations. Later on, though, the report says those with high blood pressure and prehypertension could benefit from a steeper reduction.

Cholesterol confusion and eggs

The 2010 guidelines made a key recommendation that Americans consume less than 300 milligrams a day of dietary cholesterol, or about two small eggs. That recommendation is gone, following increasing medical research showing the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream is more complicated than once thought. Several more recent studies have shown little relationship between heart disease and dietary cholesterol, focusing more on the kinds of fats consumed. Discussion of cholesterol deeper into the document says “individuals should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern.”

—Source: Associated Press