New USDA food guidelines say eat eggs, restrict added sugars

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published January 19, 2016

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Newly released guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture are lengthy and may be hard to digest for those who are not health professionals.

However, Beaumont health experts helped to boil things down to basics — and eggs are OK.

Consumer-based 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines can be found online at www.choosemyplate.gov. USDA information more geared toward health care professionals is available online at www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015.

The big takeaway item is this: Less than 10 percent of your caloric intake should be from added sugar. This equates to one can of regular soda.

“Sugar is strongly associated with diabetes and obesity, which are strong risk factors for cardiovascular disease, ” said Dr. Wendy Miller, director of Nutrition and Preventive Medicine at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.

She said that it’s best to talk to your health care professional to determine what your caloric intake should be.

Shannon Szeles, clinical dietitian for Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, noted that research has shown that artificial sweeteners, although they are not considered as added sugar, don’t send a trigger to the brain to satisfy the craving for something sweet. She suggested eating healthier versions of something sweet, such as fruit or a small portion of dark chocolate, to satisfy a sweet tooth.

“Added sugar is any sugar that doesn’t occur naturally,” Szeles said.   White and brown sugar are considered added sugars.

Miller said that research shows that eating sugar often makes us crave more sugar and makes us hungrier.

Also, the new guidelines de-emphasize cholesterol intake and focus on restricting saturated fats. Also watch salt intake, which should be less than 2,300 milligrams a day.   “A can of food or frozen entree can contain between 400 and 600 milligrams of sodium,” Miller said.

“Read food labels and restrict portion sizes,” Szeles added.

Eggheads rejoice.

The new dietary guidelines re-embrace eggs, which Szeles said are a great source of protein, contain plenty of vitamins and minerals in the yolk, are low in calories, filling, versatile and inexpensive.

However, those with weakened immune systems should avoid eating their eggs poached or sunny-side up, unless the eggs have been pasteurized, Szeles said.

Instead of stressing ”super foods,” as past dietary guidelines have, the new guidelines include three healthy diets:

• The Healthy American Diet is based on the types and serving sizes of foods that Americans typically consume and emphasizes nutrition, portion size and calorie count.

• The Healthy Mediterranean-Style Diet is based on food groups associated with that part of the world and includes more fruits and seafood and less dairy products than the typical American diet.

• The Healthy Vegetarian Diet makes plant-based substitutes for traditional proteins (red meat and poultry). Examples of plant-based substitutes include soy products, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and dairy.

Szeles said these diets can be found at the www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015 website under appendices 3, 4, and 5. It may be easier to have a health care professional explain them.

She noted that the www.choosemyplate.gov website explains portion sizes, makes things easier to understand “and gives you a good structure of what to aim for in a diet.” 

Another easy rule to remember is to “eat a rainbow of colors,” Szeles said.

She offered support for those attempting to entice picky eaters to try healthier options.

“It may take as little as eight exposures or as many as 15-20 exposures for a child, and sometimes an adult, to truly know if they like something,” Szeles said. “So don’t give up. You want to at least provide the option.”

Miller said the guidelines broaden the focus to include healthy lifestyle habits and address the importance of daily exercise. They offer a number of options rather than a one-size-fits-all path to wellness.

“Everybody has a role in encouraging healthy eating,” she said. 

She pointed out that this could mean bringing healthy food to share in the workplace or other gatherings, and encouraging everyone to get regular physical activity.

“We all need to take responsibility,” Miller said.

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