What’s the Scoop? Breaking Down the Dietary Guidelines

What’s the Scoop? Breaking Down the Dietary Guidelines

Have you heard the buzz about the new Dietary Guidelines? We’re here to give you some honest insight.

Every five years the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) based on the latest scientific and medical knowledge. The 2015-2020 Guidelines reflect consistent research which shows that adopting healthy eating and including regular physical activity can help, “achieve and maintain good health and reduce the risk of chronic disease throughout all stages of the lifespan” (1).  

The latest update focuses mostly on dietary patterns and foods, rather than nutrients, in an effort to help individuals make healthy choices. These Guidelines also influence the federal policy, such as the foods chosen for children in school lunch programs all across the country, in addition to other federally assisted food programs. As part of our Social Goodness platform and collaboration with programs like FoodCorps, we are committed to growing healthy kids, which is why staying abreast of key policy reform is so important here at Honest.

One of the key takeaways from this new version is to limit your intake of added sugar and to consume no more than 10% of your total caloric intake. (If you are scratching your head, allow us to explain). An average American woman consumes about 1800 calories per day – so, this means that no more than 180 calories should come from added sugar (not including natural sugars like those found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy) which is 11.25 teaspoons of added sugar per day. For some perspective, check out some of the sugar hiding in these basic food items (2):

  • Flavored instant oatmeal = 3 teaspoons / 12 grams
  • Chocolate milk ( 8 oz serving) = 7 teaspoons / 28 grams
  • Flavored sweetened iced tea (16 oz serving) = 10 teaspoons  / 40 grams
  • Fruit flavored yogurt (6 oz serving) = 4.5 teaspoons / 18 grams

Draft versions of the document included recommendations on limiting meat intake and sustainability issues that were not included in the final document. Another big change is that there is no longer a limit on dietary cholesterol (however, the recommendation to keep saturated fat intake below 10% of total calories remains).  

Here are the 5 new Guidelines:

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. Make smarter food choices for yourself and your family. Maintaining a healthy eating plan at an appropriate calorie level will help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. Mix it up! Enjoying a variety of nutrient-dense foods across different food groups will help you meet your nutrient needs and make eating more fun for the whole family. Check out MyPlate for more information on building a better plate.
  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Focus on fruits and veggies and you’ll find that it’s pretty easy to cut back on added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. For example, try frozen grapes as a healthier take on dessert — they’re just as satisfying and a lot better for you!
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Beverages are one of the worst offenders when it comes to added sugars, but also ones of the easiest areas to clean up. Skip the soft drinks and sugary juices (like orange and apple) and opt for plain or fruit infused water. 
  5. Support healthy eating patterns for all. Healthy eating is important for the entire family. Make a teachable moment out of meals and your kids will be better prepared to make their own healthy choices.  

Making changes to your lifestyle can feel overwhelming, but it shouldn't! The important thing is to focus on small, achievable goals and try making one change at a time. Remember, change is a process, not a final destination.


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
  2. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods accessed 1/11/16

We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.