Dietary Guidelines

fruits and vegetables in fridge

Every five years, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study the best available evidence to create the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines influence all nutrition policies and programs from the federal government, such as the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). As a USDA-funded program, the Family Nutrition Program teaches the Dietary Guidelines and MyPlate.

Over the years, the guidelines have remained fairly consistent. They encourage Americans to:

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across your lifetime.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, 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.

Fruits and Vegetables
According to the Dietary Guidelines, a healthy eating pattern includes eating a variety of vegetables, including dark, leafy green, red and orange, legumes like beans and peas, and starchy vegetables. A healthy eating pattern also includes fruits, especially whole fruits.

Grains
The Dietary Guidelines recommend making half your grains whole grains.

Dairy
The Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages.

Protein
The Dietary Guidelines also recommend eating a variety of proteins, including seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

Sugar, Salt, Fats/Oils
Limit saturated fats and trans fats, sugars, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages that are higher in these components to maintain a healthy eating pattern.

Start with Small Changes
Small changes over time can improve your health now as well as in the future. Slowly adding more healthy, whole foods to your meals will help you and your family begin to eat smarter. Cutting out one sugary snack or drink per day is a good way to start building a healthier eating style.