What Should Americans Eat? The Latest USDA Guidelines Say a Variety of Veggies, Grains, Proteins, and Oils

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The big news about the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released this month by the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), is that they look a lot like the old guidelines. For olive oil fans, that’s good news!

While the average American might not pay much attention to the guidelines, which are updated every five years, the recommendations are a key resource for health professionals and policy makers. They also have a big influence on school lunch programs, WIC, and SNAP-Ed (formerly known as food stamps). Plus, the guidelines extend the general, urgent push to get Americans to eat healthier.

For anyone interested in what we should be putting in our bodies for maximum health, the new dietary guidelines, clocking in at 570 pages, are worth a look. For those prefer a summary (and let’s face it, that’s most of us) the recommendations boil down to the following:

  • Eat a variety of veggies from all sub-groups—dark green, red and orange, legumes, starchy and others.
  • Whole fruits are best.
  • Choose whole grains over processed grains.
  • Eat fat-free or low fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese and/or fortified soy beverages.
  • Consume a variety of proteins, including seafood, lean meats, poultry and eggs, legumes, and nuts, seeds, and soy products.
  • Incorporate oils, but be sure to limit saturated fats and trans fats.
  • Limit sugar to less than 10 percent of daily calories.

To read the rest of the official recommendations, go here.

The good news for extra virgin olive oil lovers is that healthy oil continues to be an essential building block to creating daily healthy eating patterns. While controversy did arise during congressional hearings—over recommendations to limit sugar and red meat—olive oil was never called into question.

It’s easy to incorporate extra virgin olive oil into a diet that follows the USDA’s recommendations. Use EVOO in a simple vinaigrette or as a dip for fresh-baked whole grain bread. Make a fresh garden pesto with basil and garlic from the farmers market and California Olive Ranch’s fruity Arbequina. Drizzle a little Miller’s Blend over a whole grain pasta dish and fresh steamed veggies. The possibilities are endless and proof that a healthy diet doesn’t have to be a boring diet!