The USDA and HHS have released the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This edition builds on previous editions while taking into account new or updated scientific findings regarding the relationship between diet and health.
Overview and Key Guidelines
Most notable in the 2020-2025 edition is a stronger focus on dietary patterns as a whole, rather than on individual nutrients or food groups. Healthy eating patterns are encouraged at every life stage, from infancy through older adulthood. The guidelines include recommendations for infants and toddlers for the first time since 1985, and devote an entire chapter each to recommendations for infants and toddlers, children and adolescents, adults, older adults, and pregnant or lactating women.
Unlike some previous editions, there were no major changes to recommendations for specific nutrients.
The key guidelines recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are to “Make Every Bite Count” by:
- Understanding and following healthy dietary patterns in every life stage.
- Using the guidelines as a framework for customizing diets to include nutrient-dense foods and beverages that reflect personal preferences, cultural foodways, and household budget.
- Focusing on nutrient-dense foods and beverages from five food groups – vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and fortified soy alternatives, and proteins – to meet nutrition needs without exceeding calorie limits.
- Limiting foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limiting alcoholic beverages. Specifically, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans say to limit added sugars and saturated fats to less than 10% of calories per day (for ages 2 and older); limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day (less if < 14 years old), and limit alcoholic beverages to 2 or fewer drinks per day for men and 1 or less per day for women.
Nutrient-dense Foods and the 85-15 Guide
Nutrient-dense foods and beverages provide vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting components. Meeting daily food group intake recommendations without exceeding calorie limits will require most people to eat 85% of their calories in the form of nutrient-dense foods. This leaves only 15% of the calories available for excess added sugars and saturated fats (about 250-350 calories depending on age and lifestyle).
Nutrient-dense foods include:
- Vegetables of all types—dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables
- Fruits, especially whole fruit
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grain
- Dairy, including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, and/or dairy alternatives such as lactose-free and fortified soy products
- Proteins, including lean meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products
- Oils, including vegetable oils and oils in food, from sources such as seafood and nuts
Putting it All Together
There are three principles the Dietary Guidelines for Americans outline to help Americans meet the key guidelines:
- Get nutrients primarily from foods and beverages. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans guidelines are designed to help people meet RDA and AI recommendations through food intake, but allows for fortified foods and dietary supplements in cases where it’s not possible to do so with food only.
- Choose a variety of options from each food group.
- Pay attention to portion size. Use Nutrition Facts labels as a guide.
How Does This Affect ESHA Programs?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans do not impact the Nutrition Facts or Supplement Facts labels, and therefore will not affect the label formats available in the ESHA programs.
The MyPlate food group assignments that are in the programs will continue to support the new guidelines without any changes. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans do suggest some new dietary patterns for infants and children under two years of age, so users may wish to refer to those when planning diets for those age groups.
Additional information can be found on the following websites: