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What Do The New Dietary Guidelines Mean To Me?

The USDA and Department of Health and Human Services recently updated the dietary guidelines, the rules we should follow in our approach to food.

The new guidelines include updated guidance on added sugars, sodium, and cholesterol.

They are important because they take into account new evidence-based research, new research means new recommendations.

Lauren Brommerich, a registered dietitian with United Hospital is here today to tell us what the changes are and what they mean.
What Do The New Dietary Guidelines Mean To Me?
Featured Speaker:
Lauren Brommerich, RD, LD -Clinical Dietitian
Lauren Brommerich is a clinical dietitian at United Hospital in St. Paul has been a registered dietitian for about a year and half. She enjoys working as a clinical dietitian in a hospital because it allows her to reach people who may not have access to the nutrition education and counseling they need. Every day, she educates and counsels patients and their families on how to live a healthier lifestyle by making simple changes in their diet. She loves being able to work as part of a team with dietitians, nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other staff on a daily basis.

Melanie Cole (Host):  The USDA and Department of Health and Human Services recently updated the dietary guidelines – the rules we should follow in our approach to food. My guest today is Lauren Brommerich. She is a registered dietician with United Hospital. Welcome to the show, Lauren. Everybody has been hearing about this in the media. Tell us, what are some of the major changes in the new dietary guidelines?

Lauren Brommerich (Guest):  The new dietary guidelines have a few changes particularly focusing on added sugars, sodium and cholesterol. They changed a few of the percent recommendations. For instance, sugar should be less than 10% of your daily caloric intake. Sodium intake should be less than 2300 milligrams and less than 10% of your calories should be coming from saturated fats. Also, they’re now showing that dietary cholesterol is no longer considered a nutrient of concern.

Melanie:  Well that’s a huge change right there and we’ll get into that one just a little bit more but how often does the USDA update these guidelines? So, as a result, people are taking these rules and now applying them.

Lauren:  Sure. They change them every five years. So, technically these are late. These new ones are the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines.  

Melanie:  Do you think that these guidelines are important for us to follow or do you think that they are common sense kinds of rules that we should have been following all along anyway?

Lauren:  I think it is important to take into account these guidelines just because they are focused on science-based, evidence-based research. I think that listening to research is important, but some of it might be common sense as well.

Melanie:  I’d like to talk about what you mentioned that the dietary cholesterol is no longer a big nutrient of concern as we look at inflammatory processes and that cholesterol may not be the contributor that we always thought that it was. Tell us what this means for people and what they should be looking for when they are looking at labels.  

Lauren:  You’re right. Cholesterol isn’t a nutrient of concern anymore. They are actually finding that saturated fats are what causes increased levels of cholesterol in the blood. When looking at labels, try to focus on foods that are lower in saturated fats and not necessarily focus on the cholesterol levels. For example, now eggs are considered okay so you can incorporate eggs into a healthy, balanced diet. But you might want to limit meats with saturated fats like sausages or bacon.

Melanie:  So, even those more processed foods and that’s sort of what it comes down to Lauren, doesn’t it? Tell us a little bit more about the sodium and added sugar. Some of these just scream processed foods as compared to whole foods.

Lauren:  Exactly. In general, if you are eating less processed foods, you are likely eating less sodium, less added sugar and probably less saturated fat as well.   

Melanie:  What do you look for on the label for added sugars and sodium?  You mentioned 2300 milligrams a day total for sodium. That’s pretty easily read on a label – how many milligrams a particular product has. What about added sugars? What do you want the listeners to know?

Lauren:  For added sugar, one of the main things to avoid would be soda or pop. That is one of the biggest things that has added sugar. You can also avoid things like candy bars that have added sugar. If you’re looking at a label, you can look for sugar in the ingredients list. Pretty much anything that is a dessert or anything processed will likely have added sugar as well.  

Melanie:  What about refined sugars and refined things like flours and pasta and things that are not whole? Does it mention any of those?   

Lauren:  Just briefly looking at the dietary guidelines, they did recommend incorporating at least half of your grain by making them whole grains. To find a whole grain, you can look at the label on, let’s say, a piece of bread. If you look at the label and it says “whole wheat flour,” that would be a whole grain. On the opposite scale of that, if it says refined white flour, that would be a refined grain. Try to incorporate at least half of your grains, make them whole grain.  That could be whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, barley. Those are just some examples of whole grains.

Melanie:  It’s true that people don’t always know what that exactly means when you hear whole grains and where we are finding those kinds of things. Then, they hear about products like quinoa and bulgur – these things that they don’t know what to do with. What do you tell them, Lauren, when they say, “What do I even do with this stuff?”

Lauren:  Well, I try to figure out what kind of grains they tend to lean towards. If they haven’t had quinoa before, I would tell them how to use it in a dish. But, usually, I say, “If a dish has rice in it you can incorporate quinoa or barley in place of that rice.” That’s how I usually explain how to incorporate these new whole grains that people may not have used before.  

Melanie:  What would you tell people about taking these new guidelines and making some of those changes? Some of them are hard to make.  

Lauren:  They are. The first thing I tell people is to try to focus on one small goal to begin with. For example, if you drink two Cokes a day--or some sort of soda every day – try to dwindle that down to maybe half.  Maybe just try to do one pop a day. Then, if you reach that goal you can try to eliminate it completely.  Start small, focus on one goal and then when you are finished with that goal, you can focus on a new one.

Melanie:  The website, do you recommend this to some of your listeners? It does help put this out a little bit and explain some of it.

Lauren:  Yes, I do recommend that website a lot. It has really great resources. They have information on how to incorporate whole grains. It shows you a plate which shows you how much of each food you should be getting. It is a general way to figure out how big of portions you should be getting for each food group.  

Melanie:  Lauren, calories aren’t spoken about much in the dietary guidelines. Why is that?

Lauren:  They’re not. I think they avoided the calories and specific portion sizes for people because they wanted to give a general guideline for everybody and then allow different families and different individuals to figure out what portion size works for them because one portion size or one calorie level may work for one person but it might now work for somebody else.

Melanie:  Now onto proteins. With so many diets out there being protein strong and limiting certain types of carbohydrates, what do you tell people when they come to you and they say, “I’d like to try a really heavy protein diet”? What do the new guidelines speak about protein?

Lauren:  For protein, what they are recommending is to focus on lean protein. From what I read, they are not giving you a certain amount, but they are focusing on the type. A lean protein would be a chicken breast or a turkey breast or a lean percent ground beef. What I tell people is to try to focus on the type of proteins they are consuming and try to choose the leanest protein that they can.

Melanie:  In just the last few minutes, give your best advice for hearing about these new guidelines and what they mean for people and what you really want people to know about them.

Lauren:  I think my best advice is to consume everything in moderation. When you’re looking at these guidelines, you notice that they are not saying don’t consume any sodium, don’t consume any sugar. They are telling you less than a certain number but if you eat everything in moderation and you’re cutting out a lot of processed food, it’s very easy to meet these recommendations. If you need to make changes, do it slowly. Incorporate one of the recommendations at a time and just try to eat a well-balanced diet that incorporates each of the food groups.

Melanie:  That’s great advice. Thank you so much for clearing all that up for us today, Lauren.  You’re listening to The WELLcast with Allina Health and for more information, you can go to That’s This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.