Holidays are over and with all the party food that people consumed, cutting down on unhealthy food is probably the most popular New Year's resolution. Good thing, the United States Department of Agriculture has released its Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020, just in time to aid Americans in their quest for healthier eating.

An average American consumes approximately 1,200 to 1,800 calories per day. Among the new dietary recommendations is limiting added sugar consumption to less than 10 percent of the said average American diet. The percentage amounts to about 12 teaspoons per day. For comparison, a can of Coke contains nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar.

"Patterns at these calorie levels are appropriate for many children and older women who are not physically active," the authors write.

Added Sugar

Added sugar is a term that was not used in the U.S. dietary guidelines until 2000. In the past, papers advise people who like sweets to avoid "excessive sugars" or use sugars "in moderation."

Added sugars include natural sweeteners such as agave and honey, says registered dietician Lisa Cimperman.

"Sugar is sugar and whether it's white sugar, brown sugar, honey or agave nectar, all of these things represent a source of added sugar," says Cimperman.

Sugar restrictions do not necessarily mean that people can never eat these sugar sources. The key is to limit intake.

Average Intakes

On the average, about 13 percent of an American adult's calorie intake comes from added sugars. The percentage is higher in teens with 17 percent of their overall calorie intake from added sugars.

The guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services note that almost 50 percent of added sugars in American diets are sourced from sweetened drinks such as sodas and sports beverages.

Establishing Healthy Eating Patterns

The key to improve overall health is to devise a healthy eating pattern that is suitable for one's own needs. Such pattern may be used throughout a person's life with slight variations depending on health conditions encountered along the way.

A healthy eating pattern includes correct calorie levels that can maintain appropriate body weight. The guidelines say it must be comprised of food and drinks consumed over time. The authors also recommend that it must suit a person's taste, culture, budget and beliefs. A variety of food items such as fruits, vegetables, grains and meats must be included. Lastly, a healthy eating pattern must have limited amounts of saturated fats, trans fats, sodium and of course, added sugars.

Starting Small

Experts acknowledge that it may be hard to change a person's customary food choices, hence, they advise people to start small. 

"By focusing on small improvements, eating healthy becomes more manageable," a USDA statement reads.

Every single day, people are faced with lots of food choices. While the experience may be overwhelming, it should be considered a chance to make that small change. For example, in a bakery with an array of bread, people can instigate that little change by choosing whole-grain bread instead of a refined-flour one.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines was formulated to aid Americans in practicing healthier eating. The paper consists of a complete combination of healthy food and drinks and numerous recommendations with detailed nutritional objectives and dietary limits.

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