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Diabetes and the new U.S. dietary guidelines

Did you know that new dietary guidelines were issued by the U.S. Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments in early January?

The pyramid is long gone, replaced years ago by a plate that continues to be fine-tuned every 5 years.

The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 are not without controversy, but in general, they confirm what many people with diabetes have known for some time. They emphasize a lifetime of good choices.

What advice can you take from the new guidelines?1

  • Enjoy your coffee. Moderate coffee intake is no longer on the naughty list. Just don't go crazy with the sugar and cream.
  • Seek healthier fats. The guidelines continue to recommend limiting saturated and trans fats, but acknowledge some of the new learning about fats from olive and other plant-based oils, avocados, nuts and other healthy sources. These mono- and polyunsaturated fats contribute vitamin E and essential fatty acids—and can help you feel full, which may help limit overeating.
  • Reduce added sugar. As you manage your numbers, you're probably aware of how much added sugar is in many of the foods we eat. But not everyone is as plugged in, and many people don't realize that they can be getting more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day2—not the sugar that occurs naturally in, say, bananas and rice, just what's added to beverages, snacks and sweets. Whether you have diabetes or not, cutting down on those wherever possible is a big step forward.
  • Think more about what to eatand less about what not to eat. For example, the new advice doesn't recommend a limit on dietary cholesterol or total fat. But that isn't the same as a license to eat high-cholesterol or high-fat foods. Instead, it's a call to think more about what to put in your body. The idea is to motivate an overall shift toward colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains and lean protein.

Interestingly, none of this is too far from recommendations made in 1902, which said, "Unless care is exercised in selecting food, a diet may result which is one-sided or badly balanced...the evils of overeating may not be felt at once, but sooner or later they are sure to appear."3

Interested in more food tips?

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See Articles Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2010. Available at: Accessed April 30, 2016.

2NPR. New dietary guidelines crack down on sugar. But red meat gets a pass. Available at: Accessed April 30, 2016.

3Davis C and Saltos E. Dietary recommendations and how they have changed over time. In: Frazão E, ed. America's Eating Habits: Changes and Consequences. USDA; 1999. Available at: Accessed July 24, 2018.

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