The New USDA Dietary Guidelines

Have you seen the new USDA Dietary Guidelines? They don’t replace the MyPlate paradigm that replaced the food pyramid I grew up with, but instead give specific guidance on how we should fill our plates.


The HHS/USDA press release says that the Guidelines are “[b]ased on a review of current scientific evidence on nutrition,” but we all know that they were influenced by the food and agricultural industries. While I’m sure HHS and the USDA take their public health missions seriously, they are accountable to Congress, and so also are susceptible to pressure from industry.

Perhaps the biggest controversy relates to the recommendations regarding meat consumption–or lack thereof. Even though the World Health Organization declared processed meats to be carcinogenic and raised concerns about the environmental impact of meat consumption, the revised dietary guidelines surrounding meat are pretty subtle.

The description of “healthy eating patterns” includes this bullet point: 

  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds

and this guidance regarding limiting saturated fats:

  • Healthy eating patterns limit saturated and trans fats. Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil. Saturated fats should be replaced with unsaturated fats, such as canola or olive oil.

Did you see that coconut oil is called out in the list of foods to limit due to their high saturated fat content? The suggested oils are canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils. Some say canola and corn are listed for political reasons, but their inclusion is justified based on  their lower saturated fat content. 

Another interesting guideline suggests limiting consumption of added sugar to less than 10% of daily calories. Does this mean that nutrition labels soon will distinguish added sugars from those that may be naturally present (such as from fruit ingredients)?

Deb Runs

Today’s Wednesday Word is accountable. The food industry tells us that we are accountable for our own food choices, and that they are not to blame for this country’s obesity epidemic. But I think we should hold them accountable when they interfere with dietary guidelines that might shrink our waistlines because they also might diminish their bottom lines. 

Do you pay any attention to the USDA Dietary Guidelines?

If you use coconut oil, will the guidance on limiting its consumption impact your choices?

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28 Responses to The New USDA Dietary Guidelines

  1. Carla says:

    Apparently I get all my news from you 🙂 as I had absolutely no idea. I’m on a committee at school – – I was shoved onto the committee – – where we are focusing on the food served and trying to get a bit more healthy.
    (I voted for a lot more :-))
    I don’t know how I had missed all this. Thank you thank you
    Carla recently posted…Be a Shamash.My Profile

    • Coco says:

      I’m surprised that I haven’t seen much more about them, but maybe that’s because they are more interesting for what they don’t say than what they do. The actual “guidelines” are pretty general, but it’s the implementation that is tricky. If a package of hamburgers is marked 70% lean, someone could think that was a “lean” protein ….
      Coco recently posted…The New USDA Dietary GuidelinesMy Profile

  2. And yet the US gets fatter and fatter…

    I don’t pay attention to the guidelines. I really think they are politically motivated. The corn industry is so powerful. Did you know the first ingredient in infant formula is corn syrup? Seriously. I struggle with this every day in my job as a nurse practitioner. This fall I saw 3 kids under the age of 8 with insulin resistance. I used the word “diabetes” with the parents. While they were stunned, did they change the kids’ behaviors? No.

    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…The whiner’s guide to staying accountable in the winterMy Profile

  3. This is one area where I think Weight Watchers gets it wrong. With their new focus on saturated fat, things like coconut milk and coconut oil have gone way up in points.

    I personally believe that, used in moderation, there’s a lot of evidence that the medium chain fats in coconut products are healthy. I’m not a science geek, but that’s my personal belief.

    So will I still choose to use them? Heck yeah!

    And I would love to see labels show added sugars! Because that one is so, so sneaky.
    Judy @ Chocolaterunsjudy recently posted…AccountableMy Profile

  4. Not changing a thing. These updates are better but they still haven’t caught up yet…

  5. I think the new recs are better than the old ones but as you say they still have a long way to go. It always seems the Fed Gov guidelines are a few years behind everyone else! I was disappointed that processed meats were not called out more. At least they are now telling people to limit sugar and salt!!
    Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner recently posted…Fast Girl-Fast ReadMy Profile

  6. I think there’s always room for improvement on guidelines and they are certainly influenced by the food industry. But overall the general principles of healthy eating are in them.
    Jen @ Pretty Little Grub recently posted…How to Make a Healthy Power BowlMy Profile

  7. happy to see the limits on sugar and salt, but this still has ways to go. I’m about half way through reading them (yes, I’m reading them!) as health coach I think it’s important.
    Mar @ Mar on the Run recently posted…What’s Next?!My Profile

  8. Great post!

    I had not seen this.

    Ummm-love my coconut oil…not giving that up-no way!!

    I am mindful of the guidelines-always have been but don’t stress to follow them.

    The added sugar component is interesting-labels should for sure then have to clearly define their added sugar content. Let’s see if this happens.

    Happy Wednesday!

  9. Pam says:

    At my advanced age, I don’t worry about these guidelines. While I am conscious about what I eat, treats are part of my diet too and I am one of those fortunate runners who struggles to keep weight on. (Believe me, there are plenty of other things that are a struggle for me). Overall a balanced diet is the best thing for everyone and fresh is better is my motto.
    Pam recently posted…Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend HighlightsMy Profile

  10. Ariana says:

    In Canada we run by slightly different food guidelines, but they’re fairly similar in that they’re pretty outdated and don’t reflect the wide range of dietary preferences we have these days. I technically have to abide by them because of my career, however I always like to give multiple opinions whenever I talk about nutrition 😉
    Ariana recently posted…What To Expect During Your First Masters SwimMy Profile

  11. These guidelines are so vague, I wouldn’t let them impact my habits to be honest. I still need to watch some of those documentaries about how the food industry is so corrupt! Very strange to see coconut oil being called out as unhealthy!
    Janelle @ Run With No Regrets recently posted…ZOOMA Run Love 10K Training Week 1 RecapMy Profile

  12. YES the food industry should be held accountable for the information they provide to consumers. The consumers should be accountable for reading the labels and understanding what they are purchasing, but there’s so much political intrigue, misinformation, and smoke-and-mirrors in the food industry that it’s hard to blame Average Joe American for not fully understanding how to make the best nutrition decisions. A little more transparency and accountability on the other end of the food label would go a long way to helping American become healthier!
    Amanda @ Adventures with FitNyx recently posted…Wednesday Word: AccountableMy Profile

  13. Tamara says:

    While I applaud the government for giving people advice about what a healthy diet might look like, the trick is really in the implementation. People will read this and be confused.
    Tamara recently posted…Tips for automating exercise and eatingMy Profile

  14. I had no idea!! Apparently you are my #1 news source! 🙂 I’m glad to hear that they are finally coming around, but I definitely think that there is still a LOT of misinformation out there!!
    Rachel @ recently posted…How to Keep Your Family Healthy This YearMy Profile

  15. Lauren says:

    Def happy to see the moderation in sugar…will be interesting to see where they take this with food labels!
    Lauren recently posted…3 Tips for Time Crunched RunnersMy Profile

  16. These guidelines seem way too vague to be practical. I like specific serving suggestions for different food groups and think that format works…they just need to update it to reduce carb/bread intake. Good to know this is out there though.
    Markita @ Sweshfit recently posted…Allpro workout: The perfect plan for lifting weights for beginnersMy Profile

  17. jill conyers says:

    I didn’t know! I’m happy to see some changes in the right direction. I’m curious about if and how food labels will change.
    jill conyers recently posted…On My List of Favorite ThingsMy Profile

  18. great information and thanks for sharing! Interesting, money makes the world go around and we all know it effects what hits the market and how much we se of it! I am a huge coconut oil fan, will I give it up, nah…….. Something needs to change, so many allergies these days where did all this come from. Loved the post!
    Mary Beth Jackson recently posted…Accountable? Says who?My Profile

  19. I honestly haven’t really looked at what the new guidelines are but I don’t think we will be changing too much. Thanks for sharing!
    Becki Santiago recently posted…I’m Training To Say Thank YouMy Profile

  20. Oh had not seen the new one before this, thanks for sharing.
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted…Fabulous Resources for Organizing Your BlogMy Profile

  21. I heard about the new guidelines very briefly on the news, but haven’t studied them. Thanks for the reminder to look at them more closely.

    Thanks for linking up!
    Debbie @ Deb Runs recently posted…Last Week Was A BlurMy Profile

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