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URMC / Patients & Families / Health Matters / January 2016 / New Food Guidelines: A Dietitian’s Take

New Food Guidelines: A Dietitian’s Take

New dietary guidelines recently released by the Food and Drug Administration urge us to eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and less sodium, sugar and saturated fat. Registered dietitian Joanna Lipp, of UR Medicine’s Wilmot Cancer Institute, shares her thoughts on these recommendations.

family preparing a healthy mealThe FDA guidelines recommend focusing on your eating pattern, not just specific foods. They also suggest consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods and add that, for best health, Americans should follow both the Dietary Guidelines and the Physical Activity Guidelines. This is important for cancer survivors, too.

Regarding specific foods, the guidelines advise limiting added sugars to less than 10 percent of calories and limiting saturated fat and trans fats to less than 10 percent of calories. This is the first time the FDA has made this recommendation, but they could take it further. There is no dietary requirement for adults for either added sugar or saturated or trans fats. Our bodies don’t require these so an intake of zero for either is OK.  They also say to limit sodium intake to less 2,300 mg salt per day. While we do need some salt, the requirement is very low. Few foods naturally contain a high amount of salt. The guidelines do not recommend limiting the naturally occurring sugars or salts from foods such as fruits and vegetables.

The guidelines say to eat 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. I suggest even more for the cancer patients and survivors I work with, if they can tolerate it.

They also suggest limiting alcohol to one drink per day for women or two per day for men. If you don’t already drink, don’t start. Cancer survivors should be aware that alcohol consumption is a risk factor for some types of cancer, so the less, the better, especially if you have (or have had) a cancer for which alcohol is a risk factor. This includes head and neck cancers, esophageal and most GI cancers, liver cancer and breast cancer.

Disappointingly, these guidelines do not focus on limiting processed meats, which we know is a risk factor for some cancers, especially colon cancer. They do mention it in the “call-out” box under protein. However, processed meats are usually high in salt and saturated fats, so if you’re trying to limit salt and saturated fat, cutting out or cutting back on processed meats is a way to work on that goal. 

Dairy products are still listed as a recommended food group. However, I advise patients to focus on whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes and downplay dairy and meat. You can get the nutrients in milk and dairy products like cheese or yogurt from other foods so, if you choose to limit dairy consumption, you can still get adequate nutrition. That brings me to one point I was surprised to see in the new guidelines: Soy milk is listed under dairy despite it having no dairy whatsoever.

If you have questions about your diet, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. He or she can provide suggestions based on your individual health situation.

Joanna Lipp, RD


Joanna Lipp, MS, RD, CNSC, CSO, is a clinical nutrition specialist with UR Medicine’s Wilmot Cancer Institute. She’s board-certified in oncology nutrition and counsels cancer patients and survivors on nutrition and eating healthfully.


Lori Barrette | 1/18/2016

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