Every 5 years since 1980, a new edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has been published. Its goal is to make recommendations about the components of a healthy and nutritionally adequate diet to help promote health and prevent chronic disease for current and future generations. Although many of its recommendations have remained relatively consistent over time, the Dietary Guidelines has evolved as scientific knowledge has grown. These advancements have provided a greater understanding of, and focus on, the importance of healthy eating patterns as a whole, and how foods and beverages act synergistically to affect health.Therefore, healthy eating patterns is a focus of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines.
Key Recommendations: Components of Healthy Eating Patterns
There are 4 overarching Guidelines in the 2020-2025 edition:
- Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.
- Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.
- Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits.
- Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.
There are Key Recommendations supporting the 4 Guidelines, including quantitative recommendations on limits that are based on the body of science reviewed. The Guidelines recommend:
- Limiting added sugars* to less than 10% of calories per day for ages 2 and older and to avoid added sugars for infants and toddlers;
- Limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of calories per day starting at age 2;
- Limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300mg per day (or even less if younger than 14);
- Limiting alcoholic beverages* (if consumed) to 2 drinks or less a day for men and 1 drink or less a day for women.
* The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 recommend limiting intakes of added sugars and alcoholic beverages, but do not include changes to quantitative recommendations from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for these two topics, because the new evidence reviewed since the 2015-2020 edition is not substantial enough to support changes to the quantitative recommendations for either added sugars or alcohol.
Consume a healthy eating pattern that accounts for all foods and beverages within an appropriate calorie level.
A healthy eating pattern includes:
- A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
- Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
- Oils (such as olive and canola oil)
There are 3 Key Dietary Principles that can help people achieve the Dietary Guidelines. To help improve Americans’ eating patterns, the Dietary Guidelines suggests:
- Meet nutritional needs primarily from foods and beverages.
- Choose a variety of options from each food group.
- Pay attention to portion size.
Healthy Eating Plate
Use the Healthy Eating Plate as a guide for creating healthy, balanced meals—whether served at the table or packed in a lunch box.
Looking for a printable copy? Download one here, and hang it on your refrigerator to serve as a daily reminder when planning and preparing your meals!
Building a Healthy and Balanced Diet
Make most of your meal vegetables and fruits – ½ of your plate.
Aim for color and variety, and remember that potatoes don’t count as vegetables on the Healthy Eating Plate because of their negative impact on blood sugar.
Go for whole grains – ¼ of your plate.
Whole and intact grains—whole wheat, barley, wheat berries, quinoa, oats, brown rice, and foods made with them, such as whole wheat pasta—have a milder effect on blood sugar and insulin than white bread, white rice, and other refined grains.
Protein power – ¼ of your plate.
Fish, poultry, beans, and nuts are all healthy, versatile protein sources—they can be mixed into salads, and pair well with vegetables on a plate. Limit red meat, and avoid processed meats such as bacon and sausage.
Healthy plant oils – in moderation.
Choose healthy vegetable oils like olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut, and others, and avoid partially hydrogenated oils, which contain unhealthy trans fats. Remember that low-fat does not mean “healthy.”
The main message of the Healthy Eating Plate is to focus on diet quality:
· The type of carbohydrate in the diet is more important than the amount of carbohydrate in the diet, because some sources of carbohydrate—like vegetables (other than potatoes), fruits, whole grains, and beans—are healthier than others.
· The Healthy Eating Plate also advises consumers to avoid sugary beverages, a major source of calories—usually with little nutritional value—in the American diet.
· The Healthy Eating Plate encourages consumers to use healthy oils, and it does not set a maximum on the percentage of calories people should get each day from healthy sources of fat. In this way, the Healthy Eating Plate recommends the opposite of the low-fat message promoted for decades by the USDA.
Choose Nutrient Dense Foods!
To eat well, it’s best to choose a mix of nutrient-dense foods every day. Nutrient-dense foods are foods that have a lot of nutrients but relatively few calories. Look for foods that contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Contributors and Attributions
Public domain content
· Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Authored by: Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Provided by: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Located at: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov License: Public Domain: No Known Copyright
· Harvard Healthy Plate, Authored by: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Located at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/ License: Public Domain: No Known Copyright