Later this month, an advisory committee will release its recommendations for the government's new dietary guidelines, affecting everything from federally subsidized school lunches to labels on food packages, as Mary Jalonick of the Associated Press reports. Medical and nutrition experts make up the advisory group, and from their earlier draft recommendations, it seems likely they'll make changes to current dietary advice.
The secretaries for Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments will take the recommendations into account as they draft their 2015 guidelines later this year.
Here are five possible changes to watch for – highlighted by Jalonick – as the government releases the new guidelines:
1. Limits on sugar
The 2010 dietary guidelines make recommendations for reducing caloric intake from sugar. This year's advisory committee, in its draft recommendations, has urged specific limits on added sugars, saying that only 10 percent's of a person's caloric intake should come from them. Currently, Americans are exceeding this 10 percent mark, as they get 16 percent of their total calories from the food group.
Last year, the Food and Drug Administration proposed that added sugars be included in the nutrition labels on food packages.
2. How much salt might be too much?
Lowering sodium intake is important to heart health. In the 2010 dietary guidelines, it was advised that a person consume no more than 2,300 milligrams a day. Those who were 51 or older, African-American or had hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease were told not to consume more than 1,500 milligrams a day.
It remains to be seen whether the committee's draft recommendations appear will be as strong as the 2010 guidelines.
There is also the realization that "years of public pressure to lower sodium levels has not had much effect. The average American consumes more than 3,400 mg of sodium a day, or about 1 1/2 teaspoons," Jalonick writes.
3. Less processed meat, and less red meat
Under the current guidelines, people are advised to eat a variety of proteins, in particular lean meats. From a draft recommendation discussed at the advisory committee's December 15 meeting, there is a sense the panel may advise lowering one's intake of "red and processed meats" for a healthier diet.
The beef industry, opposed to the new guidelines which may encourage restrictions, has said that lean beef has a role in healthy diets.
4. Caffeine limits for pregnant women?
While the 2010 guidelines didn't address the matter, the advisory committee has suggested that it may propose guidelines encouraging pregnant women to limit their caffeine intake.
"Limited evidence suggests that moderate caffeine intake is associated with a small increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, and small for gestational age births," the committee said in its draft recommendations.
5. The environment and our food
Over the last year, the panel has discussed more seriously the importance of considering the sustainability of our food. It stated in its draft recommendations there is "compatibility and overlap" between food that is good for people's health and good for the environment.
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