Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Almost all federal food and nutrition policies and programs are based on the dietary recommendations set by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines focus on making small shifts to your daily eating to improve your overall health. They are science-based and intended to help Americans choose healthy eating patterns to prevent disease. As a dietitian, I use these recommendations to educate the public on how to improve or maintain their health through nutrition, and I have compiled a summary of the guidelines for you. 

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern throughout life. 
    • A healthy eating pattern consists of eating all food groups and beverages within an appropriate calorie limit.
  2. Focus on a variety of nutrient-dense foods and pay attention to the amount of food you eat.
    • Vegetables: Eat dark green, red and orange vegetables. Beans, peas and starchy vegetables are also good.
    • Fruits: Whole fruits are preferred. They can be fresh, frozen, canned or dried.
    • Grains: Make at least half of the grains you eat whole grains like oats, brown rice, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, quinoa, millet, barley, etc.
    • Dairy: Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy such as milk, yogurt, cheese and soy beverages.
    • Protein: Include a variety such as seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
    • Oils: Oils are unsaturated fats and considered “healthy fats” that supply essential fatty acids and vitamin E.
  3. Reduce added sugars, saturated fats and sodium intake as part of a healthy eating pattern.
    • Consume less than 10% of calories from added sugar per day
    • Consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fats daily
    • Consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day
  4. Switch to healthier food and drink options. 
    • Choose healthier options like fruit, whole grains, unsalted snacks, oils, no sugar added drinks and nutrient-dense snacks instead of baked goods with fruit, refined grains, snacks with added sugar, solid fats and sugar sweetened drinks.
  5. Support healthy eating patterns for everyone. 
    • All of us have a role to play, whether in our homes, schools, workplaces, communities or even restaurants we need to find ways to encourage affordable, accessible and easy healthy options. 
  6. Don’t forget physical activity.
    • When you are trying to improve your health, physical fitness is an important component of healthy living. 
Molly Wright, RD