New federal dietary guidelines issued last week by the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments, urge Americans to drastically cut back on sugar, and for the first time have singled out teenage boys and men for eating too much meat, chicken and eggs.
The biggest change is restricting added sugar: Americans consume up to 22 teaspoons a day. To meet the new 10 percent target, they’d need to cut their sugar intake by nearly half — to no more than 12 teaspoons a day on a 2,000-calorie daily diet.
Two surprises in the guidelines were both related to protein:
- The recommendation that men and boys “reduce their overall intake of protein foods” such as meat, poultry and eggs and add more vegetables to their diets.
- The absence of a recommended dietary limit for red or processed meat, even though the Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended one be put in place after a controversial World Health Organization report declared that processed meats cause cancer, and red meats likely cause cancer.
Last year, an advisory committee of nutrition experts assembled by the government recommended that the dietary guidelines encourage all Americans to consume more plant-based foods and less meat to help promote environmentally sustainable eating habits. That suggestion elicited intense lobbying and criticism from the food and meat industries, leading to a congressional hearing on the topic last year. In December, Congress passed a spending bill that contained a provision calling for a review of the dietary guidelines by the National Academy of Medicine and restricting the scope of the guidelines to nutrition, which essentially eliminated the advice about following an environmentally-sustainable diet.
The report also excludes other notable recommendations made by the Dietary Guidelines advisory panel that reviewed the latest nutrition science. For instance, the advisory committee had recommended including sustainability as a factor in making food choices. But administration officials nixed that idea.
The Dietary Guidelines have implications for federal nutrition policy, influencing everything from the national school lunch program to the advice you get at the doctor’s office.
What do you think of the guidelines? How do they impact you?