Breaking Down The New Federal Health Guidelines

A visual representation of the MyPlate food recommendations that replaced the food pyramid. 


Every five years, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) release a new report on nutritional and dietary guidelines for Americans. These reports have, over the years, introduced the food pyramid, replaced it with MyPlate, required all processed and packaged foods to be labeled with Nutrition Facts, and addressed the risks associated with an unhealthy diet.

The most recent of these reports contains guidelines that we should adhere to until the next update in 2020. Its recommendations also inform the National School Lunch Program, which feeds more than 30 million children each school day.

Here are the three most important take-aways from the 2015-2020 report:

Eliminate saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, and sodium whenever possible. Specifically, “consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.”

Half of all your grains should be whole grains. Many refined grains can also be heavy in added sugars (think cookies, cakes and snack foods). Go for enriched grains instead, like brown rice, quinoa and oats, which have fiber, iron, and nutrients. 

Teenage boys and men are consuming too much protein. The report recommends that they decrease the amount of meats, poultry, and eggs they eat, and increase the amounts of vegetables and “underconsumed” food groups.

These guidelines are helpful and important, but take them with a grain of salt (or rather an enriched grain), and don't forget about physical activity! The USDA's exercise guidelines can be found here. And check out Choices'  own recommendations for the 10 foods every teen should eat