USDA: Americans Are Eating Dangerous Amounts of Sugar, Not Enough Healthy Food

The USDA just published its 2015 Scientific Report of Dietary Guidelines.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The food pyramid is dead. 

While Americans have slowly adapted a newer model of eating, splitting up an ideal plate into whole grains, vegetables and proteins, there is still much uncertainty in nutrition. Does eating more of one thing relate to the benefits of eating less of another? Is that heaping kale salad so good for you or is eating less red meat truly what's helping your heart? 

On Feb. 20th, the USDA published its 500+ page report:2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.The year and a half long study analyzed scientific, nutritional, agricultural and public health data to determine what and how Americans should truly be eating. 

Two of the realities they found are pretty horrific:

"About half of all American adults—117 million individuals—have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, and about two-thirds of U.S. adults—nearly 155 million individuals—are overweight or obese."  

Changes in diet and lifestyle could help most of our nation's population; intense methodology and evidence analysis proves that "The U.S. population consumes few vegetables" and falls short in many areas of nutrition. With white potatoes making up for 80% of vegetable consumption across the country, statistics show that access to nutritional food and education about what to eat is imperative. 

But the big question is-- what should we eat? While the USDA doesn't create a specific diet or meal plan, general guidelines should help to improve the way many Americans eat and think about food.

  • Eat your veggies, enjoy a Mediterranean-style diet. 

"Dietary patterns with positive health benefits are described as high in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products; lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains."   

  • Reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and of desserts and sweet snacks.

"Mixed dishes are the largest contributor to intake of sodium (44%) and saturated fat (38%). Sodium and saturated fat have both been identified as nutrients of concern for overconsumption. Within mixed dishes, the sub-category of burgers and sandwiches is the largest contributor for both nutrients." In short, snack on some carrots. Or a whole beet. 

  • Drink water.

"Beverages contribute 19% of total energy intake. Of this 19% of energy, major sources are sugar-sweetened beverages (35%), milk and milk drinks (26%), and 100% fruit juices (10%)... Strategies are needed to encourage the U.S. population to drink water when they are thirsty. " 

  • Moderate alcohol consumption is fine, but skip the Red Bull and vodka.

"Energy drinks with high levels of caffeine and alcoholic beverages should not be consumed together, either mixed together or consumed at the same sitting." Sorry, bros.  

  • Cholesterol is A-okay!

"Previously, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 mg/day...Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption." Say goodbye to egg white omelettes, the yolk is back in style!

  • For (potentially) best results, adapt an organic vegan diet.

"[ The study] examined vegan, vegetarian, and omnivorous diets, both organically and conventionally grown, and found that the organically grown vegan diet had the most potential health benefits; whereas, the conventionally grown average Italian diet had the least.  The organically grown vegan diet also had the lowest estimated impact on resources and ecosystem quality, and the average Italian diet had the greatest projected impact."

  • To save the environment, save the cows.

"Beef was the single food with the greatest projected impact on the environment; other foods estimated to have high impact included cheese, milk, and seafood."  

For 500-plus pages of charts, dietary guidelines, resources, studies and more, check out the full report on

Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.

Melissa Kravitz is a writer in New York City who writes about food and culture for First We Feast, Thrillist, Elite Daily, Edible, and other publications. She is a writing fellow for Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute. Find her online at Follow her on Twitter @melissabethk.