LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The U.S. government has released new dietary guidelines to help Americans eat healthier and avoid medical complications caused by unhealthy eating.
The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services released their new dietary guidelines for years 2015 to 2020. The guidelines are updated and released every five years with the goal of curbing emerging health issues.
The biggest change involves added sugar, registered dietitian Maji Koetterali said.
The new guidelines are a direct response to the growing obesity epidemic in the U.S.
"There's officially an upper limit on the amount of added sugar you should have in your diet," Koetterali said. "That new upper limit is 10 percent."
In other words, people on a 2,000 calorie diet, should only get 200 calories person from foods with added sugars. This does not include foods with natural sugars like fruits and vegetables.
You may be shocked to learn what this means in terms of food you eat everyday. Koetterali said it's like eating a fun-size candy bar and having a can of Coke.
Another focus is sodium content.
"People are consuming about 3,400 milligrams of sodium every day when really they shouldn't be taking in more than 2,300 milligrams," Koetterali said.
She recommends reading labels closely.
A good rule of thumb, Koetterali said, is that if an item is 20 percent or higher in sodium content per serving, it's consider high in sodium, so try to avoid it.
If an item has five percent sodium content or less, it's considered low sodium and is recommended.
Egg lovers can rejoice.
Foods rich in cholesterol should no longer be considered off limits, the dietitian said. Saturated fats are now the target.
"We're learning that the amount of cholesterol you take in doesn't affect your blood cholesterol the way that saturated fat does," Koetterali said.
While the recommendations may seem overwhelming to some, the best advice is to take small steps if you're looking to improve your diet.
So what should be on your dinner plate tonight? Koetterali suggests following the USDA's MyPlate guidelines. Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, a quarter should be lean protein, and a quarter should be whole grains.
You should also incorporate low-fat dairy.
For a full list of the updated guidelines click here.