You might be familiar with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are developed by nutrition experts and approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The first edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was issued back in 1980. Since then, a new version has been published every five years. It’s time for a new edition this year. What will be different? What will be new? And how might these guidelines affect people who have diabetes? Here’s a look at what we may expect to see:
Eat More Meatless Meals
The guidelines will likely mention the “Healthy Vegetarian Pattern” for the first time. Millions of Americans suffer from chronic diseases related, in part, to poor eating habits. Plenty of evidence supports the health benefits of a plant-based diet, which includes a lower risk of heart disease.
- What you can do: You don’t need to become a vegetarian to reap the benefits of meatless meals. Aim to eat one or two meatless meals every week. It’s easy to do! Try a vegetarian bean chili, or whip up a stir-fry using tofu instead of meat. The protein and fiber in these dishes can keep you feeling full and make it easier to keep your blood glucose within a healthy range.
Worry Less About Cholesterol From Food
If you’re an egg lover, you can breathe a sigh of relief with these new guidelines. The expert panel advises that the guidelines do away with recommending that Americans limit cholesterol from foods, especially eggs, shrimp, and other shellfish. Scientific studies don’t support the need to cut back on these foods, since food cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol levels in healthy people. The catch? Not enough is known about how food cholesterol affects blood cholesterol in people with diabetes.
- What you can do: Go ahead and enjoy a few eggs–with the yolk–each week. Eggs are an excellent source of protein. They also contain other important nutrients, like choline, iron, and vitamin D. Plus, they’re carb-free! In the meantime, talk with a healthcare provider about how much food cholesterol is okay for you to eat.
Put The Brakes On Sugar
Sugar has never been considered a health food, but Americans’ intake of the sweet stuff has skyrocketed. Besides causing cavities and weight gain, newer research shows that sugar may increase your risk for heart disease and even diabetes. The expert panel wants us to cap our sugar intake to no more than 10% of calories. That’s about 12 teaspoons a day (the average sugar intake is 22-30 teaspoons a day).
- What you can do: If you have diabetes, chances are you’re already limiting sugar. Beware that sugar lurks in foods other than candy, cookies, and soda. Salad dressings, cereal, ketchup, yogurt and even some frozen dinners may have a surprising amount of sugar. Check the Nutrition Facts Label for grams of sugar, and choose foods and drinks with no more than 4-8 grams (that’s 1-2 teaspoons) of sugar per serving.
Enjoy Your Cup Of Joe
Coffee lovers can rejoice! For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines may mention coffee. Research shows that drinking a moderate amount of coffee (3 to 5 cups each day) may lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and heart disease.
- What you can do: Go ahead and pour yourself another cup of coffee. But go easy on what you add to it. Cream, half and half and whole milk are high in saturated fat, and sugar can add carbs and calories. Small amounts are fine to use. Or, consider switching to low-fat milk, fat-free half and half, or drinking your coffee black. Try cutting back on the amount of sugar that you add, or use a stevia-based sweetener instead.