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New Food Rules to Help You Eat Better in 2016

Call me a dork, but there’s something about the release of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that really excites me. After the release of the 2015-2020 Edition this morning, I printed up and bound the document and read through it while walking more than 4-miles for more than an hour on the treadmill. Multitasking at it’s finest, no? (I did slow my usual pace so I wouldn’t fall off).

As a registered dietitian nutritionist for two decades, I’ve spent most of my professional life helping consumers make better, more informed, science-based food choices and promoting a healthy lifestyle (that you know includes a lot of physical activity and exercise and plenty of sleep). I’ve utilized these guidelines quite a bit in all the work I have done as a media dietitian and find them fascinating and informative. Incidentally, the first book I ever wrote—So What Can I Eat?! (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006)—was based on the 2005 guidelines. I guess you can say I’ve been obsessed every since!!

In a nutshell, the latest version of these federal guidelines focuses on the overall dietary pattern rather than individual food or nutrients, which I think is great. They define a healthy eating pattern as one that includes fruits (especially whole), vegetables, protein (including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds and soy products), dairy (fat-free or low-fat including milk, yogurt, cheese and/or fortified soy beverages), grains (at least half = whole grains) and oils and that limits saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium.

The guidelines also recommend daily intakes of <10% calories from added sugars and <10% calories from saturated fats. They also suggest <2,300 milligrams sodium each day.








Here are the 5 new guidelines for Americans over the age of 2:

1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan.

The guidelines emphasize that all food and beverage choices matter and that we need to choose a calorie level that supports a healthy body weight, helps us get the nutrients we need, and helps prevent the risk of chronic diseases.

2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount.

The guidelines emphasize choosing a variety of nutrient-dense foods within all food groups.

3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.

4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.

I LOVE the emphasis on making shifts—some minor, and some that require greater effort—in food and beverage intake as a means of creating an overall healthier eating pattern. The guidelines say that consumers have so many opportunities to make shifts—they can do it over the course of one meal, one day, or one week whether they’re at school, at home, at work or in a restaurant. Even small shifts, they say, can make a big difference.

5. Support healthy eating patterns.

According to the guidelines, we are all in this together. Everyone—this includes the government, public advocacy and other organizations, food and beverage companies and the media—can play a role in supporting and creating healthy eating patterns at home, in schools, in the communities and in the work place.

I hope these new dietary guidelines—they also emphasize physical activity—encourage people to eat and move in a more healthful and sustainable way. Though some experts and non-experts alike may want to tweak them or throw them in the garbage—read thoughts by David Katz, M.D., whom I respect greatly, and other experts in links below—I believe that if each of us simply try to shift our behaviors to make them more in line with what’s recommended, we’ll likely begin to look and feel better inside and out and enjoy our lives just a little bit more!

To celebrate the launch of the 2015-2020 guidelines, below is interview with current Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic Spokesperson Kristi L. King, MPH, RDN, CNSC, LD. King is also a Clinic Instructor at Baylor College of Medicine and a Senior Pediatric Dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital.

Below are highlights from our email interview:

EZ: What are your general thoughts about the new guidelines?

KK: The scientific committee that was responsible for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines did a great job sticking to the peer-reviewed scientific evidence. They emphasize the fact that there isn’t just ONE healthy eating pattern that the masses should follow. They encourage healthy eating patterns that follow each individual’s point out the personal, taste and cultural preferences as well as budget.

EZ: Would you say that the expectations for the guidelines based on preliminary reports were met, or were there any surprises?

KK: No big surprises here! The guidelines very much followed the preliminary reports. They addressed added sugars, fats, sodium, alcohol and caffeine as expected.

EZ: How different are the new guidelines from the 2010 guidelines?

KK: These 2015 Dietary Guidelines seem to be more streamlined and easier for healthcare professionals and policy makers to understand. This in turn allows us to develop solid messages for the general public. Unlike the 2010 guidelines, these new guidelines do not give set cholesterol recommendations. These new guidelines also recommend <10% of daily calories coming from added sugars whereas the 2010 guidelines suggested we limit them. I believe these are just some examples of the committee’s commitment to following peer-reviewed evidence in order to craft the guidelines.

One significant difference I notice in the new guidelines is that they provide recommendations on HOW to implement a healthy eating pattern. For example, in guideline #4—Shift to healthier food and beverage choices—the guidelines provide small, easy steps that can be made in order to achieve a healthy eating pattern. This is significant as ¾ of our population currently consumes a diet that is low in recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and healthy oils. The current eating pattern of Americans is concerning as these particular food groups provide necessary vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin D, vitamins A and C, iron, and fiber—all of these are needed not only for our body’s daily functions, but to prevent chronic diseases as well. One example of how to improve the dietary pattern is to switch from eating products that are “fruit-filled” to eating whole fruits.

EZ: What are your top tips to help Americans incorporate these new guidelines into their lives?

KK: I encourage consumers to find what works best for them and their families—to not compare themselves and their diets to those of others. A registered dietitian nutritionist can help those consumers who need help to develop goals and a healthy eating pattern that is appropriate. I also encourage people to vary their diets by eating a lot of different foods and to limit added sugar intake. Switching from sugar-sweetened beverages to water or other non-sugar sweetened beverages can help as can limiting sugar intake from the extras throughout the day. Those with a sweet tooth can reach for a whole fruit instead of a sugary treat. Focus on easy changes you can make today can make a difference and help people get on a more healthful eating path. And don’t forget physical activity—it plays a vital role in the prevention of chronic health conditions. Follow the HHS physical activity guidelines and aim for minimum 30 minutes moderate physical activity daily, with 60 minutes of physical activity daily for kids. And finally, get active in your community. Visit farmer’s markets, be vocal and encourage businesses/restaurants to offer healthy options–including in vending machines, and get involved in local school district health committees.

EZ: What will be the biggest challenge for consumers in following these new guidelines?

KK: Implementing the guidelines may be the biggest challenge. Just because you know you should do something doesn’t mean you’ll actually do it! But hopefully with the focus on shifting to a healthy eating pattern, the guidelines will be a little more do-able.

You can read the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 here. To help you implement the guidelines in your life or community or get a referral to a registered dietitian, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.

For David Katz, MD’s take on the new guidelines, click here. And for his and other experts’ opinions as well, check out this piece by

What are your thoughts about the new guidelines?


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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books and is currently working on her first novel. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook.

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