The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have published the 2015-2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which now emphasize overall dietary patterns as opposed to nutrient quotas. Explaining that “people do not eat food groups and nutrients in isolation but rather in combination,” the guidelines offer the following “overarching” recommendations: (i) “follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan”; (ii) “focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount”; (iii) “limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake”; (iv) “shift to healthier foods and beverage choices”; and (v) “support healthy eating patterns for all.”

Among other things, the Dietary Guidelines specify that a healthy diet includes a variety of dark green, red, orange, and starchy vegetables as well as legumes; whole fruits; grains and whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy products and/or fortified soy beverages; a variety of proteins, such as seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy; and oils. The guidance also advises individuals to limit their added sugar and saturated fat consumption to less than 10 percent of daily calories; consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day; and moderate their alcohol intake to less than one daily serving for women or two for men.

Meanwhile, consumer groups have met the new guidelines with mixed reviews. “The advice presented in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is sound, sensible and science-based,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Executive Director Michael Jacobson. “If Americans ate according to that advice, it would be a huge win for the public’s health. That said, the federal government’s basic nutrition advice has remained largely unchanged for the past 35 years. The problem is that the food industry has continued to pressure and tempt us to eat a diet of burgers, pizzas, burritos, cookies, doughnuts, sodas, shakes, and other foods loaded with white flour, red and processed meat, salt, saturated fat, and added sugars, and not enough vegetables, fruit, and whole grains.” See CPSI Press Release, January 7, 2016.

New York University Professor Marion Nestle, however, deems the guidelines “a win for the meat, sugary drink, processed, and junk food industries,” criticizing the lack of guidance concerning calories, portion sizes and cholesterol. She has singled out the egg industry for allegedly lobbying to have cholesterol advice removed from the guidelines and takes issue with using “protein” as a catch-all for various products. “The Guidelines use [‘protein’] as yet another euphemism for meat,” she opined. “‘Protein’ lumps meat together with seafood, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, and soy. But grains and dairy also have protein, so using this term makes no nutritional sense and obfuscates the message to eat less meat.” See Food Politics, January 7, 2016.