The U.S. government recently published a new set of dietary guidelines to reflect the most current findings in nutrition science. It’s 500 pages long and aimed at public health professionals, so we’ve asked registered dietitian and certified personal trainer John Rickards to break it down for us. But before we get into the details, John wants to emphasize that these are just guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Everyone is different, so it’s best to find a healthy eating pattern that meets your personal needs.
- Limit sugar. Okay, we all knew this was coming, but now there’s an actual number attached to it. The guidelines suggest that sugar should not exceed 10 percent of your daily calorie intake. How much is that, you ask? A single can of soda puts you over your limit.
John’s advice: Stick with whole fruits and beware of foods with added sugars, like protein and granola bars, yogurts, low calorie or low fat salad dressing, low fat peanut butter, and condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce. Remember 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar!
- Limit sodium. Time to put the saltshaker away. And a whole lot of processed and canned foods. The guidelines recommend 2,300 milligrams of salt a day, about a teaspoon.
John’s advice: Replace the saltshaker with herbs and spices — black pepper, red pepper, garlic, onion powder, thyme, basil, or other favorites from your spice rack.
- Cholesterol’s no longer the bad guy. There are no longer limits on cholesterol, as there does not appear to be a connection between the cholesterol you eat and your blood cholesterol. So eat those eggs!
John’s advice: Go for whole egg omelets. When you throw away the yolk, you’re throwing away most of the nutrients found in an egg. And don’t forget to add in some vegetables for extra bulk and fiber.
- More good fat, less bad fat. Fat gets a bad rap, but your body needs it. Unsaturated fat is considered good fat — it’s what you get from healthy oils (olive, coconut, canola), fish, avocado, eggs, and dark chocolate. But you should limit saturated fat that’s found in meats, poultry, dairy, and junk food, like potato chips and candy bars.
Try to eat more fish, and pack in the plant sources of fats such as nuts and seeds. Although those foods are high in fat, they are filled with the right heart healthy fats that can help reduce inflammation.
- Don’t forget your fruits and veggies. It’s something we’ve heard over and over, but most of us don’t get enough of them. Because fruits contain natural sugar, choose whole fruits (fresh or frozen) as much as possible over dried or canned. With vegetables, eat your heart out and eat a rainbow of colors — your greens, your oranges, your reds and purples.
John’s advice: Try to pair one fruit or vegetable (or both) with every meal, and even snacks.
- Pack in the protein. Your body doesn’t store protein, so it’s something that you need to eat frequently. But it’s still important to get your protein from the right sources.
John’s advice: Aim for a variety of sources when it comes to protein, and be sure to throw in some vegetarian protein — like beans, quinoa, soy, and nuts.
Looking for advice on how you can improve your personal nutrition needs?
Everyone has different needs when it comes to diet and nutrition. A registered dietitian can assess yours, design a custom eating plan for you, help you overcome some of your nutrition challenges, and give you tips and advice to make healthy eating a regular part of your life.
If you’re an IBX member, chances are you’re covered for six free visits with a registered dietitian each year. Check to see if your plan covers nutrition counseling. To find a participating registered dietitian, primary care provider, or another network provider who offers nutrition counseling, search our Provider Finder Tool or call 1-800-ASK-BLUE (TTY: 711).
Pictured: John Rickards, Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer