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Fat and high-cholesterol foods? No problem. Alcohol and coffee are fine too, but skip the spoonful of sugar. And that salt shaker? Put it down.

Keeping up with the latest nutrition recommendations can be as daunting as keeping up with the Joneses. Both could drive you nuts, potentially damaging your health and your wallet.

Thankfully the latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released earlier this year by the U.S. Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments, seems to be the voice of sanity. Its newest advice is an exercise in moderation, explained in a recent New York Times article as emphasizing the “need to focus on a health-promoting eating pattern ‘across the life span.'”

The experts are now less worried about the high-cholesterol eggs and shrimp that might land on your plate and more concerned about what kinds of fat you’re eating. Avocados, nuts, olive oil and fatty fish are packed with unsaturated fats, the kind linked with better health and longevity and part of the celebrated Mediterranean diet. Fats can also make you feel full longer, a key feature in any weight loss effort.

Saturated fat, salt and added sugars are the big three no-nos according to the report. Refined carbohydrates – such as white bread, white rice, cakes, cookies and that yummy breakroom doughnut – are also on the “not that” list. Stripped of their fiber and nutrients, they are empty calories not much better than eating that spoonful of sugar.

While the guidelines stop short of calling out smaller meat portions, they do lower the recommended protein amounts for teenage boys and men. Processed meats, loaded with both saturated fat and salt, have been linked to increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

Waking up to the smell of sausage might not be the best idea, but the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee? Bring it on. It’s the first time the guidelines admit that a couple of cups a day are acceptable. The same stands for alcohol as well. Moderation is key: men can have up to two drinks, and women one, a day.

So what should you eat?

Whole Grains

According to the Times, “diets with a rich variety of vegetables and fruits; whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese, and protein foods that contain little or no saturated fat, including eggs, shellfish, lean meat and poultry, beans and peas, soy products, nuts and seeds.”

Lowfat Milk
Lean Protein
Plant Protein

For specific ranges of recommended sodium amounts and other key measures, including limiting added sugars to 10% of daily calories, read the article in its entirety or the guidelines themselves.

That said, for the first time the guidelines “advise Americans to focus less on individual nutrients and to think more broadly about overall patterns of healthy eating.”

Bottom line, it’s about taking in essential nutrients through many different kinds of whole foods, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your risk for chronic diseases.

Cheers to your health!

Photo © iStock