The new federal dietary guidelines released last week include the following recommendations:

  • Reduce added sugar intake to less than 10% of daily caloric intake
  • Limit saturated fat intake to less than 10% of daily caloric intake
  • Limit sodium intake to less than 2300 mg/day

In addition to the above, a healthy diet includes:

Vegetables of any kind and in a wide variety

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Fruits, specifically whole fruit

Grains, of which half should be whole grains

Fat-free or low fat dairy

A variety of protein sources including fish, beans, eggs, poultry, nuts, seeds and soy.

Limited alcohol – 1 drink a day for women and 2 for men (a drink = 1 oz of distilled spirits, 5 oz of wine, 12 oz. of beer)

A summary of the report is at:

The complete report is at:

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The following information may help you incorporate the new guidelines into your diet.

Reduce added sugar intake to less than 10% of daily caloric intake

In order to do this, you need to know your daily caloric intake. If you don’t want to count your calories for a week and compute the average, use the average American caloric intakes for men (2400 to 3000) and women (1600 to 2000).

Using the lower end of the range for women (1600) as an example, this means limiting your intake of added sugar to no more than 160 calories a day. (The average American man takes in about 330 calories in added sugar daily, woman about 230, boy about 360 and girl, about 280. [CDC, 2013])  Keep in mind that one teaspoon of sugar is 15 calories. So, 160 calories from sugar is equal to about 10 teaspoons, the amount in a can of soda or three tablespoons of ketchup.  

To reduce your intake of sugar, limit (or better yet, eliminate) sweetened beverages, especially soda and sweetened juices and replace them with water, unsweetened teas and coffee or seltzer.

Read food labels and look for “added sugar” which might appear as any of the following:

·  anhydrous dextrose                                    

·  brown sugar                                               

·  confectioner's powdered sugar                  

·  corn syrup

·  corn syrup solids

·  dextrose

·  fructose

·  high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)

·  honey

·  invert sugar

·  lactose


  • malt syrup

·  maltose

·  maple syrup

·  molasses

·  nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar)

·  pancake syrup

·  raw sugar

·  sucrose

·  sugar

·  white granulated sugar


Limit saturated fat intake to less than 10% of daily caloric intake

Again, using the lower end of the average daily caloric intake, limiting saturated fat to less than 10% means for women, less than 160 calories from saturated fat and for men less than 240. Since saturated fat is listed on food labels in grams, 160 calories is 17.7 grams, 240 calories is 26. (One gram of fat = 9 calories, one gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories, one gram of protein = 4 calories). The American Heart Association recommends between 5-6% of calories from saturated fat.

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, so think butter, lard, solid shortening, fat on meat.  They are found in higher amounts in full fat dairy products, red meats, poultry skin, hydrogenated vegetable oils and tropical oils (coconut and palm).

For example, one tablespoon of butter has 7 grams of saturated fat compared to one tablespoon of canola oil with 1 gram. A ½ cup serving of ice cream has 4.5 grams of saturated fat, the same as in 8 ounces of whole milk. So, if you eat that whole pint of vanilla ice cream (which contains 4 servings), you’ve taken in 18 grams of saturated fat – more than what you should eat in a day, and 550 calories!  

Read food labels and look for the saturated fat content, but remember – the amount listed on the label is per serving.  In the ice cream example above, a serving is ½ cup – not a pint.

Limit sodium intake to less than 2300 mg/day

One teaspoon of salt contains a little more than 2300 mg of sodium. This means, we should be taking in less than a teaspoon of salt every day from all of our food. On average, we take in more than 3,300 mg of sodium a day, 75% of which comes from processed, prepacked or restaurant foods, 6% from our salt shaker at the table, 5% is added when we cook at home, and the remaining 12% is found naturally in the food. (CDC, 2012) So, the biggest culprit is processed foods. One way to combat this is to decrease our reliance on prepared and packaged foods and increase our intake of whole fresh foods made at home. If this doesn’t work for your lifestyle, then at the very least, opt for low sodium versions of prepared foods whenever possible and avoid adding extra salt to the processed or prepared food you eat.

But, keep in mind that the recommendation is for sodium not salt. Sodium is found in many products as an additive rather than as salt, including:

  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Baking soda and baking powder (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Sodium nitrate
  • Sodium saccharine
  • Sodium benzoate

Following is The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014) list of the top 10 sources of sodium in the American Diet:

  • Breads and rolls
  • Cold cuts and cured meats
  • Pizza
  • Poultry
  • Soups
  • Sandwiches
  • Cheese
  • Pasta dishes
  • Meat dishes
  • Snacks

For more information see:

US Department of Agriculture: Choose My Plate – added sugars

US Department of Agriculture: Choose My Plate - solid fats

Centers for Disease Control – Sodium in your diet

Mayo Clinic – Tips for cutting back on sodium

Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES is the principal health education specialist at Associates for Health Education and Behavior in Sparta, a practice focused on improving health through education. For more information please see  To contact Dr. Hayden, email her at