Priority Policy

Dietary Guidelines


Dietary Guidelines

Expert recommendations for healthy eating that reflect the latest nutrition science

Every five years, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a series of recommendations reflecting the latest nutrition science. The latest Dietary Guidelines, covering 2015-2020, emphasizes combining nutrient-dense foods in the same meal and limiting saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium. The next iteration of the Dietary Guidelines, which will cover 2020-2025, will for the first time include standards for pregnant women, infants, and toddlers. In February 2019, USDA and HHS announced the members of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which reviews scientific evidence and makes associated recommendations. The public is invited to submit comments.

Several federal nutrition assistance programs are required by law to have nutrition standards that meet the Dietary Guidelines; these include CACFP, the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs and WIC. The healthy eating patterns recommended in the Dietary Guidelines can help prevent chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes.


USDA and HHS should work with the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to:

• Maintain the scientific integrity of the Dietary Guidelines.

• Extend the Dietary Guidelines (currently under revision) to children under age 2, taking into account the most recent science including: Feeding Guidelines for Infant and Young Toddlers: A Responsive Parenting Approach and Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood: Recommendations from Key National Health and Nutrition Organizations.

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Featured Studies and Resources


Healthy Eating Pattern

The current Dietary Guidelines focus on establishing a “healthy eating pattern” that accounts for all foods and beverages within an appropriate calorie level. According to USDA, a healthy eating pattern consists of whole fruits, a variety of vegetables, grains (mostly consisting of whole grains), fat-free or low-fat dairy, and an array of foods rich in protein such as seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, and legumes.

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Dietary Standards for Pregnant Women, Infants, and Toddlers

In advance of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines, Healthy Eating Research convened experts to evaluate the latest research covering healthy eating habits and infant nutrition. The panel recommended breastfeeding from birth until 6 months old and gradually introducing nutrient-rich foods through responsive feeding techniques to establish lifelong healthy eating patterns.

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Drink Recommendations for Babies and Young Kids

Leading medical and nutrition organizations recommend breast milk, infant formula, water, and plain milk as part of a set of comprehensive beverage recommendations for children, outlined by age from birth through age 5.

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Fast Facts

6 in 10

Six in 10 youth (61%) and 5 in 10 adults (50%) drink a sugar-sweetened beverage on a given day.

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1 in 4

Federal nutrition programs that are required to meet the Dietary Guidelines–such as CACFP, the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs and WIC–serve one in four Americans.

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On average, children consume more than 30 gallons of sugary drinks every year. 

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Data to Share

Current Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting added sugars and saturated fats to less than 10 percent of daily calories. Approximately 70% of Americans regularly exceed the recommendations for both categories.
Current Dietary Guidelines recommend eating 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables per day. The CDC reports that only 12 percent of adults eat the recommended amount of fruits and less than 10 percent eat the recommended amount of vegetables.
Current Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting the consumption of sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day for children and adults older than 14 years old. The CDC reports that the vast majority of adults currently consume more than 3,400 mg of sodium per day.