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Nutrition & Fitness Newsletter

Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020

The much anticipated 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines were released in early January.  These guidelines are updated every five years.  I want to review the take home points and how you can use them in your daily lives.  First a little history, the purpose of these guidelines are to promote a healthy diet and lifestyle, to prevent chronic disease such as hypertension, heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.  The guidelines tend to bring controversy, some feel they are not strict enough and others feel they give into big business or corporate lobbies.  In any case, they do shape the American diet in terms of government policy, how we spend our food dollars and affect products available in the grocery store.

Let's go over a few important points:

  • Reduce Sugar Intake— This is the most emphasized point in the new guidelines.  Dietary Guidelines for Sugar recommend added sugar to be less than 10% of total calories.  That is equivalent to less than 50 grams or approximately 12 teaspoons for a 2000 calorie diet.  In comparison, the American Heart Association recommends less than 9 teaspoons of sugar for men and less than 6 teaspoons for women.  That may still sound like a lot but its surprising how often sugar is hidden in many foods that can add up quickly.  These recommendations do not include naturally occurring sugars in fruit and dairy products.  Supporting the focus to reduce added sugar intake is evidence from studies that reveal higher risks of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.  Sugar has its flaws; it has little nutritionally value, appears to reduce immunity and leads to inflammation which is the precursor to multiple chronic conditions.  Sugary foods can be difficult to give up due to our natural preference for sweet foods and how it influences our brain chemistry to want more.

  • Limit Sodium—For those who are 14 years or older sodium intake should be less than 2300mg (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt) per day and even less for those who have prehypertension or hypertension (high blood pressure).  As a more aggressive approach, the American Heart Association recommends a limit of 1500mg per day.  The relationship between high blood pressure and high sodium intake is strong for the majority of the population.  Even if you're not using the salt shaker consider that salt may have already been added to foods.  Canned foods, frozen meals and processed foods typically have high sodium levels.  Instead of salt, use spices, herbs and citrus to flavor your foods.

  • Caffeinated Coffee is Alright— Most studies on caffeine are focused on coffee.  Moderate coffee intake at five 8-oz cups per day is approximately 400mg of caffeine, can be part of a healthy lifestyle.  This level is not associated with chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease.  Although there is no need to begin drinking coffee if you don't already, especially if you're sensitive to caffeine.  A good nights sleep is just as important.  Please be careful and limit added sugars or fat from milk/cream if you do drink coffee.

  • Choose Low Fat—Total fat should be 20-35% of total calories. Saturated fat should be less than 10% of total calories. The guidelines support fat-free or low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese) and/or fortified soy beverages.  Try to use the heart healthy unsaturated fats that are anti-inflammatory such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

  • Eat Your Vegetables, Fruits, Lean Protein and Whole Grains— Across the board, eating a variety of food from various food groups is promoted.  Eat vegetables and especially whole fruit. Try to have a colorful array of vegetables; dark green, red and orange vegetables.  Incorporate legumes (beans and peas) into the diet.  Have a variety of protein foods: seafood, lean meats, poultry eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and soy products.  Choose whole grains most of the time.

  • Increase Physical Activity— Avoid inactivity; for the most benefit adults should perform 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or a combination of both.  Muscle strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups should be performed on 2 or more days per week.  In general, try to be active through-out the day and incorporate more days with activity that will raise your heart rate and practice strength building exercises at least two times a week.
What Didn't Make it Into the Guidelines— "Eat More Plants, Less Animal"- Reducing meat in the diet, especially red or processed meats will greatly enhance a diet if they are replaced with healthy alternatives. Seafood can be another healthy protein alternative.  Incorporate additional vegetables besides potatoes in the diet, to increase a variety of nutrients and fiber.  Have more meatless days and use vegetarian sources of protein such as nuts, seeds and legumes.  Examples of legumes are garbanzo beans, lentils, kidney beans and pinto beans.  The originally proposed dietary guidelines discussed the reduced environmental impact with a more of a plant-based diet.

Here are few reasons to see a nutritionist: improve exercise performance, have healthier skin, nails and hair, improve mental clarity, improve digestion and nutrient absorption, and cleanse your system and eat to save the planet.  Please consider Sheri for nutrition counseling and/or fitness appointments to help you keep on track for the new year.  Wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day!


Oh Nuts, Fewer Calories!
The USDA have found that walnuts have fewer calories than previously thought, actually 21% less!  It was originally thought that a one ounce serving of walnuts was 185 calories, when it is actually 146 calories!  This new information could be attributed to better methods for calculating calories in food.  Recent research has shown that for certain tree nuts fewer calories are actually absorbed by the body.  Now that's good news, nuts are good source of protein and healthy fats.

If you're interested in reading more about this, click on the following link:

Sheri is a Certified Nutritionist with a master's degree in nutrition, with over 14 years of clinical counseling experience, an ACE-certified Personal Trainer with an advanced certification in medical exercise and pending Health Coach certification.  All nutrition consultations include exercise guidance, dietary analysis and meal plans to meet your individual lifestyle, calorie and nutritional needs.

Free introductory 15-minute appointments are also available.

To schedule an appointment with Sheri Mar, email:  or call:  206.789.6440

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