Just in time to celebrate March as National Nutrition Month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a new set of dietary guidelines.
If the phrase “new dietary guidelines” makes your head spin, don’t worry—you may find these guidelines are actually easier to follow than past recommendations. Here are a few things you need to know.
- The main change: Added sugars are now recommended to take up no more than 10 percent of your daily calories.
- A new focus: Rather than avoiding certain foods and prioritizing certain nutrients, the new recommendations place a stronger focus on healthy eating patterns over time.
- Same old basics: The basic recommendations should come as no surprise—eat more plant-based foods, avoid processed foods and focus on lean proteins and healthy fats.
While all of those recommendations sound good in theory, how can you go about implementing them in your daily eating habits? We have a few ideas.
1. Embrace variety
Eating your veggies isn’t nearly as enticing if you’re fixing the same steamed broccoli every day. Instead, embrace the wide variety of nutritious vegetables out there and keep your taste buds guessing.
2. Choose whole grains
By making sure the breads, rice, pastas and cereals you eat are whole grain, you’re automatically increasing your fiber intake and eating more nutritionally dense food. Whole grains also tend to keep you fuller longer, so overeating is less likely.
3. Eat more plants
Filling your plate with fruits, vegetables and legumes is a great way to meet your nutrition quota. You’ll also find that you can eat a larger volume of these nutrient-rich foods, which can leave you feeling more satisfied from your meals.
4. Go lean
While the new dietary guidelines do recommend a limited protein intake and a more plant-based diet, meat is still considered a healthy addition to a daily diet. However, choosing lean meats (like chicken, fish and low-fat beef or pork) prepared through healthy methods (like baking or roasting) is the most nutritious choice.
5. Pick oils over solid fats
Naturally occurring oils in nuts, seeds, olives and avocados are one of the best ways to add healthy fats to your diet—especially compared with solid fats like butter or lard.
6. Aim for low-fat dairy
While dairy can certainly be a healthy addition to a diet, you should limit things like ice cream and cheese and instead focus more on quality low-fat dairy sources, like low-fat milk, yogurt and cottage cheese.
7. Think carefully about sugar
Since added sugar should only be 10 percent of your daily caloric intake, take the time to consider what that actually means as you make your choices. For instance, say you eat 2,000 calories in a day—that means you can allocate 200 calories to sugar, which only works out to be about 50 grams. If you drink one 8-ounce soda, you’ll already be more than halfway over your limit.
Eating nutritionally doesn’t have to be difficult. With these easy tips and simple swaps, you can create a healthy eating pattern that not only meeting recommended dietary guidelines, but also make your body feel great.