The New Nutritional Guidelines: How to Update Your Plate

Every five years, the United States Department of Agriculture publishes their handbook to eating right and makes updates to the “perfect plate.” Why should you pay attention? Their guidelines can be a great tool to make sure you and your family are getting the nutrients and ingredients you need!

To keep up with the USDA’s updated guidelines, you’ll need to slash sugar and sodium intakes while increasing the number of fruits, veggies and legumes you eat—all steps that will help you create a perfectly balanced plate for every meal. Here are a few simple steps to making the updated guidelines part of your daily diet:

  • Shake off the salt and sugar: This year’s biggest change will affect salt and sugar lovers the most, with the USDA cutting back sugar intake to 10 percent of your daily diet. That’s roughly one 16-ounce bottle of soda per day. But beware, extra sugars are found in items you may not expect like ketchup, cereal and yogurt. Recommended sodium levels remain at less than 2,300 milligrams per day, but should be even lower for people with high blood pressure.
    Meal tip: Limiting salt and sugar can be a challenge, especially with the high levels of both in packaged and process foods. But cutting back doesn’t have to affect the tastiness of your meals. Before buying your favorite packaged snacks, make sure to peek at the nutrition label. Try adding a dash of lemon juice, olive oil, seasonings or fresh herbs in place of salt the next time you’re at the stove. Cinnamon can be used as a great sugar substitute on top of oatmeal for early morning sweetness.
  • Give legumes a chance: Legumes are a looked-over source of protein and can help you cut down the amount of meat in your diet—reasons why the USDA recommends adding them to your plate. The food group is super diverse – including beans, peas, lentils and peanuts – making it simple to add beans or nuts into almost every meal.
    Meal tip: Add cooked black beans or kidney beans to an omelet or toss cooked nutrient-rich lentils into a leafy green salad for a great lunch.
  • Egg-cellent addition: Another notable change to the updated guidelines is the inclusion of eggs, which were previously excluded due to their high levels of cholesterol. Eggs finally made the plate thanks to new research showing dietary cholesterol isn’t as bad as originally thought as well as due to their high levels of protein.
    Meal tip: Mix up your scrambled egg routine by cooking an egg inside an avocado – a food high in heart-healthy fats – dropping an egg on top of your favorite open-faced sandwich or adding a poached egg to your lunchtime salad.

Want more healthy eating tips to keep your diet in line with USDA guidelines? Check out these blogs:

Photo Credit: Kyle Brammer


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