Healthy Eating Update: 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Healthy Eating Update: 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

On January 7, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services released the long-awaited 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Published every five years, the 8th edition of the Guidelines provides information to help Americans make healthy eating choices.

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I was not surprised that, for the most part, the Guidelines were similar to previous ones, with advice to create a healthy eating pattern by consuming a variety of nutrient-rich foods in moderation. Here’s a snapshot of the new recommendations.

Foods to include:

  • Select a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Eat plenty of whole grains, making half of them whole-grains
  • Choose a variety of lean protein foods including seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products and nuts and seeds
  • Opt for fat-free and low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Use healthy vegetable oils like canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean and sunflower.

Foods to reduce:

  • Limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of calories. This means less butter, full-fat dairy products, fatty meats, poultry skin and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil. Saturated fat is a primary culprit in raising blood cholesterol levels.
  • Keep trans fats as low as possible by eating fewer foods that with synthetic trans fats like partially hydrogenated oils in some margarines and processed foods.
  • The 300-milligram daily cholesterol limit in previous editions of the Guidelines was removed, as there is little evidence that dietary cholesterol raises blood cholesterol. They still advise limiting cholesterol-containing foods high in saturated fats like high-fat meats and full-fat dairy foods. Eggs and shellfish that contain cholesterol but are low in saturated fat can be included along with other lean protein foods.
  • Cut added sugar to less than 10 percent of calories. For a 2000-calorie diet, that equals 200 calories – about 12 teaspoons a day – from all forms including white and brown sugar, honey and other calorie-containing sweeteners. Using foods and beverages with low- and no-calorie sweeteners like aspartame is one way to reduce added sugar. The Guidelines state that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved these sweeteners as safe and they can help decrease calorie intake.
  • Reduce sodium intake to 2300 milligrams a day by using low sodium and no-salt-added canned soups, vegetables and other products and fresh poultry, seafood, lean meat rather than processed varieties.

Nutrients of Concern

Most Americans do not consume enough calcium, potassium, fiber and vitamin D so they are considered “nutrients of concern” as low intakes are linked to health problems. Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains will boost fiber and potassium while adequate dairy foods will help increase calcium and vitamin D.


The Guidelines advise drinking beverages that contribute essential nutrients, such as low-fat milk and 100 percent juice or are calorie-free: water, diet soda and coffee or tea plain or sweetened with low calorie sweeteners like aspartame. Beverages with caffeine are just as hydrating as water.

The Bottom Line

The new Guidelines continue to advocate a variety of nutrient-rich foods eaten in appropriate portions and calorie intake balanced with plenty of physical activity.  For help in designing meals to meet the 2015 Guidelines, check out the new MyPlate MyWin website.



Neva CochranNeva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Dallas. She serves as a nutrition communications consultant to a variety of food and nutrition organizations, including the Calorie Control Council. She is passionate about promoting fact-based food and nutrition information to help people enjoy nutritious eating. Follow her on Twitter @NevaRDLD and check out her blog at

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