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Eat more seafood, ditch the saltshaker and ease up on the portion sizes! (Starbucks Trenta, this means you!) Those are just three of the 23 just-released, highly anticipated new Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The revision, a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was released on January 31. The new guidelines emphasize calorie reduction and increased physical activity in light of the fact that more than two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight.
While some of the new guidelines are simply updates of familiar advice (like eat a variety of vegetables and cut your intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars), others are new, like the recommendation that pregnant or breastfeeding women should consume only 8 to 12 ounces of seafood a week (limiting albacore tuna to 6 ounces a week and avoiding tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel, due to mercury content.) Previously, pregnant women were given very general guidelines about seafood consumption.
Plus, unlike years past, the new guidelines now emphasize the management of body weight through all life stages, explains registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesperson Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo. For instance, research on eating patterns (such as vegetarianism) has been incorporated for the first time, and eating behaviors, such as snacking and fast food, are addressed. Other new and noteworthy changes:
- Daily sodium intake for Americans should be less than 2,300 mg; further reduce this to 1,500 mg for individuals age 51 and up, all African Americans, or anyone with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. (The three latter groups of individuals make up about half of the U.S. population.) Gazzaniga-Moloo says this new recommendation was made in light of the strong link between sodium and blood pressure. Common sodium culprits include frozen meals, breads, cereals, soups, and salad dressings.
-For the general population, increase the amount and variety of seafood you consume. This new step takes advantage of the heart- and brain-healthy omega 3 fatty acids found in seafood, as well as their naturally low saturated fat levels. Smart options include salmon, mackerel, herring, shrimp and crab.
-Alcohol should be sipped in moderation (up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men) and only by adults of legal drinking age. This is a slightly stricter version of the older recommendation, and makes sense considering the new guidelines’ overall emphasis on swapping out sugar and saturated and trans fats in favor of more nutrient dense options.
Feeling overwhelmed? You needn’t memorize all 23 recommendations. Simply try to soak in the following key messages and you’ll be on the right path:
Avoid oversized portions.
Fill half of your plate with produce during meals.
Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.
Check the sodium levels in foods and always choose products with the lowest numbers.
Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Which recommendation will you tackle first? Chime in below!