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Nutrition Experts React to New Dietary Guidelines

Eat More of This

One message is very clear in the new guidelines: Eat less overly processed foods and more plant foods.

That's not to say that you need to become a vegetarian or vegan (although if you do, the guidelines address that for the first time, too).

Advice on the importance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat and low-fat dairy remains solid and unchanged. One exception: The guidelines bumped up the amount of dairy that kids ages 4-8 should get -- 2.5 cups per day, up from 2 cups. The guidelines also encourage eating foods that are excellent sources of nutrients many Americans don't get enough of: calcium, fiber, vitamin D, and potassium.

Seafood, Meat, and Other Protein

Forget the "Meat and Beans" food group. It's now called "Protein Foods," with an emphasis on choosing a wide variety of animal and protein sources including seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy, and unsalted nuts and seeds.

One simple change toward meeting the recommendations and eating a more nutrient-rich, plant-based diet is to eat less meat and replace it with healthier forms of protein such as nuts, seeds and beans, says Willett.

Seafood is called out, too. The guidelines recommend eating about 8 ounces per week in place of some meat and poultry.

Pregnant and lactating women are encouraged to eat 8-12 ounces of seafood but not more than 6 ounces/week of albacore tuna and no tilefish, shark, swordfish, or king mackerel because of mercury content.

"Fish harbors DHA, a healthy fat associated with brain development and peak vision in developing babies and infants. I encourage women in their childbearing years to try to eat as much fish as the guidelines recommend, but I also recognize that many may not, and should rely, at least in part, on foods fortified with DHA, including certain eggs, milk, yogurt, and snack bars," says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of Expect the Best: Your Complete Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy.

Curbing "SoFAS"

There's a new buzzword in the guidelines: SoFAS. That stands for solid fats -- such as butter and lard -- and added sugars.

The guidelines recommend reducing your use of solid fats -- such as animal or hydrogenated fats -- in favor of more healthy oils, such as olive and vegetable oils. And they recommend limiting sugars that you add to your food or that have already been added to the food you buy.

"Healthy oils are much better for you than many other foods in the diet like refined grains, added sugars, and solid fats," says Dariush Mozaffarian, MD.

The guidelines emphasize building healthy eating patterns, whether you create your own or incorporate healthful aspects of the traditional Mediterranean, Asian, DASH (Dietary Approaches to reduce Sodium and Hypertension), vegetarian, or USDA diet plans.

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