U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Updated August 23, 2017

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is reviewed, updated, and published every 5 years jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  The Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to eat a healthful diet to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health, and prevent disease.  It forms the basis for developing Federal nutrition programs, nutrition standards, and nutrition education initiatives. Traditionally, the Dietary Guidelines recommendations have been intended for healthy American ages 2 years and older.  However, with rising concerns about the health of Americans, the dietary recommendations since 2010 are intended for Americans ages 2 years and older, including those at increased risk of chronic disease. 

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015 is expected to be released later this year.  The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 sets a high standard designed to reduce overall caloric intake, eat more nutrient-dense foods and increase physical activity to help reduce the incidence and prevalence of obesity in the United States.  The guidelines pose both challenges and opportunities for food scientists and technologists, and the food industry. 

Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020

On January 7, 2016, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture released the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  The eight edition of the guidelines focuses primarily on healthy eating patterns.  The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines is available at https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf.

The five overarching guidelines that encourage a healthy eating pattern include the following:
1) Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan.
2) Focus on variety, nutrient-dense foods, and amount.
3) Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.
4) Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
5) Support healthy eating patterns for all.

Key recommendations on what should be included or limited as a part of a healthy eating pattern are:

  • 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
  • A healthy eating pattern limits:
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats
  • Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium
  • If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age.

IFT’s input on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

IFT has been actively involved in the development and implementation of the Dietary Guidelines.  IFT submits nominations to serve on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.  IFT submits comments to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and USDA and DHHS during the deliberation process.

Developing future editions of Dietary Guidelines for Americans Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015 - 2020

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010

Educational Resources

IFT offers educational resources on the development and implementation of the guidelines to members and other stakeholders.

IFT Webcast

Publications and Report
Nutrition Today article

Food Technology magazine articles

Research Report

  • Dietary Guidelines Alliance Consumer Research Report on “Motivating Families to Lead a Healthier Lifestyle in 2011 and Beyond | 2010.
    The goal of this research was to aid the Dietary Guidelines Alliance (DGA) in their effort to understand parents’ knowledge of, and attitudes toward, crucial food- and health-related topics, and to inform future Alliance efforts consistent with its mission to provide positive and simple messages to help American consumers achieve healthy, active lifestyles, consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Members of the 2010 DGA include professional organizations such as IFT, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association), American Society for Nutrition; trade associations and foundations; and USDA and HHS as liaisons.

Roundtables on the Dietary Guidelines

IFT, along with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association), International Food Information Council, and International Life Sciences Institute North America convened two roundtables in response to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s call for a multi-sectoral effort to better implement the Dietary Guidelines.  The roundtables included food scientists and dietitians/nutrition communicators because food scientists innovate and reformulate food products that most Americans consume, and dietitians counsel clients and communicate dietary guidance to the public.  The purpose was to bring these key sectors together to interact and brainstorm solutions to integrate and translate the science behind the Dietary Guidelines into ways for bringing about actual behavior change. The discussions of the two roundtables are summarized and published in Food Technology magazine, Journal of Food Science, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, and Nutrition Today (see below).

Additional Related Resources

U.S. Dietary Guidelines and Reports

Dietary Guidelines – Global