What new dietary guidelines suggest you should cut back on

The federal government is in the process of writing 2020-2025 dietary guidelines, and a report now under consideration suggests some changes you might see come December.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services plan to release the guidelines at the end of the year.

Some of what’s expected would lower the threshold for safe alcohol consumption by men, address prenatal and maternal nutrition and recommend that allowable added sugars be cut nearly in half, according to an expert in neuroscience and health psychology.

“Every five years (the guidelines) are updated based on the fact that we have new research coming out, every day essentially, that’s helping to inform and help us make better decisions about the advice that’s given in terms of our nutrition and what we eat,” assistant professor of neuroscience Nicole M. Avena said.

Avena, who has a doctorate in neuroscience and psychology, teaches at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and is a visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University.

The anticipated adjustment targeting added sugars would cut to about 6% the current suggestion that added sugar not exceed about 10% of daily calories.

Offering advice for how to cut back, Avena said stop drinking sweetened beverages, such as soda and energy drinks, beware of highly-processed shelf stable foods and read labels.

“You might see fruit concentrate and think, ‘Oh wow, that sounds healthy,'” but Avena said don’t be fooled.

“You’re losing all the nutrients of the fruit and the fiber and healthy stuff and really just getting the sugar,” she said.

Why not eat an apple? You’ll feel fuller and it will satisfy your hunger better than eating a package of something that has sugar added to it.

Added sugar hides in everything from barbecue sauce to salad dressing, and in other places you might not expect, such as in turkey sausage and bacon.

“So, you’ve really got to be mindful of the ingredients and pay attention,” Avena said.

How much alcohol is considered safe to drink? For men, maybe less than previously believed.

It’s expected that men and women will share the same recommendations of not exceeding the equivalent of one alcoholic beverage a day under the new dietary guidelines.

“This is becoming an issue that will be really interesting to see how it unfolds because as these new guidelines roll out, suggesting that people drink even less alcohol, I think we’re at a point in time where people are drinking more alcohol than ever,” Avena said.

Avena observes that some people are using alcohol to cope with pandemic-related anxiety and stress, and some who are home more without a commute may be imbibing recreationally at higher than usual levels.

“A lot of people in the mental health world, and the addiction world especially, we’re bracing for the second wave of alcoholism that is probably going to be emerging,” she said.

You can download the full Scientific Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans website.

Scientific data backing up new guidelines, 'I'm hoping will change the way we think about early life nutrition from here on out,' Nicole Avena, Ph.D.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up