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A: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 is the first set of guidelines that provide guidance for healthy dietary patterns by life stage, from birth through older adulthood, and for the first time, there are chapters devoted to each life stage, including chapters on infants and toddlers and women who are pregnant or lactating.
Check out our Top 10 Things to Know About the Dietary Guidelines resource.
A: This edition of the Dietary Guidelines emphasizes the importance of choosing nutrient-dense foods and beverages in place of less healthy choices at every life stage, and it is never to early or too late to improve food and beverage choices to build a healthy dietary pattern. Its call to action is “Make Every Bite Count with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” The four overarching guidelines to help make that happen are:
- 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.
For most individuals, no matter their age or health status, achieving a healthy dietary pattern will require changes in food and beverage choices. The good news is that a healthy dietary pattern is not a rigid prescription. Rather, the Dietary Guidelines provides a customizable framework of core elements within which individuals can make tailored and affordable, nutrient-dense choices that meet their personal preferences and cultural traditions.
A: USDA and HHS provided multiple opportunities for public participation before, throughout, and after the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s review of the science, and the Departments value everyone’s engagement. See our infographic Public Engagement Strengthens the Process to learn more about these opportunities for public engagement.
A: Each edition of the Dietary Guidelines builds on the preceding edition, with the scientific justification for revisions informed by the Advisory Committee’s Scientific Report, consultation with subject matter experts within Federal agencies, and consideration of comments from these agencies and the public. As with previous editions, development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 involved a step-by-step process of writing, review, and revision conducted by a writing team of Federal staff from USDA and HHS. The writing team included Federal nutrition scientists with expertise in the Dietary Guidelines and related research and programs as well as specialists with expertise in communicating nutrition information. Key tenets of writing the Dietary Guidelines are that it must:
- Represent the totality of the evidence examined
- Address the needs of Federal programs
- Reduce unintended consequences
- Follow best practices for developing guidelines
- Use plain language
Any revisions to previous editions of the Dietary Guidelines must have sufficient scientific justification, and by law, must be based on the preponderance of scientific and medical knowledge current at the time and not on individual studies, emerging science, or opinion. Learn more about how USDA and HHS developed the Dietary Guidelines by visiting our page on this topic.
A: USDA and HHS greatly appreciate the expertise and experience of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, whose high-quality review of the science on key nutrition topics was transparently documented in their Scientific Report to the Departments. Any revisions to previous editions of the Dietary Guidelines must have sufficient scientific justification, and by law, must be based on the preponderance of scientific and medical knowledge current at the time and not on individual studies or opinion.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 carries forward nearly all of the science-based recommendations of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, including new dietary advice for infants and toddlers. For two topics – added sugars and alcoholic beverages – the Dietary Guidelines carries forward part, but not all, of the Committee’s advice.
The Dietary Guidelines emphasizes the importance of limiting intakes of added sugars and alcoholic beverages, but does not include the changes to quantitative limits recommended by the Committee. The evidence that the Committee reviewed supports the need to continue to limit intakes of added sugars and alcoholic beverages to promote health and prevent disease. However, there was not a preponderance of evidence in the Committee’s review of studies since the 2015-2020 edition to substantiate changes to the quantitative limits for either added sugars or alcohol. Thus, the 2020-2025 edition underscores the importance of limiting added sugars and alcohol intake, and carries forward the quantitative limits from the 2015-2020 edition. USDA and HHS encourage more research on the relationship between added sugars and alcoholic beverages and health, and will continue to monitor the evidence on these topics.
For more information view our page on this topic.
A: Suggested citation: U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
A: This is a misconception. The Dietary Guidelines provides science-based recommendations on what Americans should eat and drink to promote health and prevent chronic disease – including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Moreover and importantly, of the 60 percent of adults in the United States who currently are living with one or more diet-related chronic condition, the majority are people with a condition that is included in the evidence base of the Dietary Guidelines. For people living with hypertension, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, overweight and obesity, the evidence shows they would benefit from following the Dietary Guidelines recommendations to prevent progression to disease, such as cardiovascular disease.
Those living with a disease, such as the 11 percent of Americans with diabetes, require clinical treatment. We emphasize that these are diseases that need one-on-one oversight and care by a medical specialist and team focused on the specific disease.
The Dietary Guidelines is not intended to be a clinical guideline for treating chronic diseases. However, it has served as a reference for Federal, medical, voluntary, and patient care organizations as they develop clinical nutrition guidance tailored for people living with a specific medical condition. Health professionals can adapt the Dietary Guidelines to meet the specific needs of their patients with chronic diseases, as part of a multi-faceted treatment plan. In this way, the Dietary Guidelines serve as a foundational piece of America’s larger nutrition guidance landscape.
To learn more, check out our infographic The Dietary Guidelines for Americans Can Help You Eat Healthy To Be Healthy.
A: The Dietary Guidelines provides a framework for a healthy dietary pattern that is intended to be customized to individual needs and preferences. This concept is emphasized in the second of the four overarching Guidelines in the 2020-2025 edition – which describes how individuals can customize a healthy dietary pattern to enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.
A healthy dietary pattern can benefit all individuals regardless of age, race or ethnicity, or current health status. The newest edition of the Dietary Guidelines provides food-based recommendations across the entire lifespan, providing guidance at varying calorie levels that can fit an individual’s age, sex, height, weight, and activity level. And people can “make it their own” by selecting healthy foods, beverages, meals, and snacks specific to their needs and preferences.
In every setting, across all cultures, and at any age or budget, there are foods and beverages that can fit within the Dietary Guidelines framework.
A: Unfortunately, the vast majority of people in the U.S. are not eating according to the Dietary Guidelines. The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) measures how well diets align with the Dietary Guidelines. The average HEI score is 59 out of a possible 100 points. Decades of research shows that consuming a healthy dietary pattern that aligns with the Dietary Guidelines is associated with a wide range of health benefits, across all life stages.
A: The science supporting the Dietary Guidelines consistently identifies low-fat and fat-free dairy as a component of a healthy dietary pattern, and the dairy food group provides nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, and protein that help meet nutrient needs required across age and sex groups.
For individuals who are lactose-intolerant or who choose dairy alternatives, the dairy food group includes low-lactose or lactose-free dairy products, as well as fortified soy beverages and yogurt.
It is important to note that while there are other calcium-fortified plant-based “milks” on the market that can help an individual meet their calcium recommendations, they are not part of the dairy food group because their overall nutritional content is not similar to dairy milk.
A: The Dietary Guidelines does not encourage a low-fat diet. It provides guidance to limit a type of fat called saturated fat to 10% of daily calories. The 2020-2025 edition encourages swapping saturated fat for healthier unsaturated fats:
For those 2 years and older, intake of saturated fat should be limited to less than 10 percent of calories per day by replacing them with unsaturated fats, particularly polyunsaturated fats.
The recommendation to limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of calories per day does not apply to those younger than age 2, and the inclusion of higher fats versions of dairy is a notable difference in the pattern for toddlers ages 12 through 23 months compared to patterns for ages 2 and older.
(Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025)
Decades of research shows that saturated fat is linked to increased cardiovascular disease, and this relationship was documented in the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s latest review of the body of evidence.
The Dietary Guidelines carry forward the Dietary Reference Intakes established by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine for different age and sex groups and recommends between 20-35% of daily calories come from total fat.
A: Information related to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s work can be found under “Resources” in the About the Process section. This section links to the Committee’s Scientific Report and Committee Meetings. It also includes the public comments provided to the USDA and HHS on the Committee’s Scientific Report. Additional supplementary information for data analysis and food pattern modeling are still available on DietaryGuidelines.gov. The completed NESR Systematic Reviews conducted by the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee can be found on the NESR website.
A: USDA and HHS provided multiple opportunities for public participation before, throughout, and after the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s review of the science, and the Departments value everyone’s engagement. All public comments submitted throughout the development process are available through Regulations.gov.
- View written comments provided to USDA and HHS on the process to identify the topics and supporting scientific questions to be examined by the Committee.
- View written comments submitted to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
- View written comments submitted to USDA and HHS on the Advisory Committee’s Scientific Report.
A: The Dietary Guidelines is the cornerstone of Federal nutrition policy and nutrition education activities, providing food-based recommendations to promote health, help prevent diet-related disease, and meet nutrient needs. USDA and HHS jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines every 5 years.
A: Relied on by Federal agencies, the Dietary Guidelines serves as a central source of guidance that nutrition programs within the Government can use to inform their food and nutrition programs and initiatives while tailoring their efforts for their specific audiences, like women and children. The Dietary Guidelines also supports the development of science-based nutrition education messages and consumer materials for the general public, as well as for special audiences. Additionally, outside organizations and companies use the Dietary Guidelines in the private sector.
A: The Dietary Guidelines was first released in 1980. In 1990, Congress passed the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, which mandates in Section 301 that USDA and HHS jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines every five years. The law requires that the Dietary Guidelines is based on the preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge. Learn more about the history of the Dietary Guidelines by visiting our page on this topic.