Adarsh Gupta, DO

Top 10 key recommendations from Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025

Since the first edition was published in 1980, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have provided science-based advice on what to eat and drink to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and meet nutrient needs.

Publication of the Dietary Guidelines is required under the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, which states that at least every 5 years, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and of Health and Human Services (HHS) must jointly publish a report containing nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public. The statute
(Public Law 101-445, 7 United States Code 5341 et seq.) requires that the Dietary Guidelines be based on the preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge.

The 2020-2025 edition of the Dietary Guidelines builds from the 2015 edition, with revisions grounded in the Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary
Guidelines Advisory Committee and consideration of Federal agency and public comments.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 provides advice on what to eat and drink to meet nutrient needs, promote health, and help prevent chronic disease. You should know that the aim of the Dietary Guidelines is to promote health and prevent disease. Because of this public health orientation, the Dietary Guidelines are not intended to contain clinical guidelines for treating chronic diseases.

Here are 10 key recommendations from Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025:

top 10 key features of dietary guidelines for America 2020-2025
Top 10 key features of Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025

1. Healthy Eating Pattern

One of the key recommendations in this 2020-2025 guidelines is to follow a healthy eating pattern. It’s about the pattern of eating, not just healthy choices here and there. The Dietary Guidelines focus on the combination of foods and beverages that make up an individual’s whole diet over time, and not single foods or eating occasions in isolation. Research shows that the ongoing pattern of an individual’s eating habits has the greatest impact on their health.

2. Customize nutrient-dense food and beverages per your preference, budget, culture, and tradition

Eating should be enjoyed. I have always told my patients that if you do not like the food you are eating, it is not going to last. That is why may diets fail. This new dietary guidelines provides a framework intended to be customized to fit individual, household, and diverse cultures in the United States. This framework approach ensures that people can “make it their own” by selecting healthy foods, beverages, meals, and snacks specific to their needs and preferences.

The food groups include a broad variety of nutrient-dense food and beverage choices. 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.

3. Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits.

While one should meet the food group’s needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, one should stay within calorie limits that are appropriate for them. You can select your calorie plan here and learn about the calories in food types. The core elements that make up a healthy dietary pattern include:

  • Vegetables of all types—dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables
  • Fruits, especially whole fruit
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grain
  • Dairy, including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, and/or lactose-free versions and fortified soy beverages and yogurt as alternatives
  • Protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products
  • Oils, including vegetable oils and oils in food, such as seafood and nuts

4. Pay attention to portion size

Portion size is a term often used to describe the amount of a food or beverage served or consumed in one eating occasion. It is important to
pay attention to portion size when making food and beverage choices, particularly for foods and beverages that are not nutrient-dense. A concept that can help people choose appropriate portions is serving size. This term is included on the Nutrition Facts label and refers to the amount of a food
or beverage that is customarily consumed—it is not a recommendation for how much to eat or drink. Consuming less than the stated serving size results in consuming fewer calories and other nutrients or food components. Some products may have multiple servings per package.

Portion Sizes -
Portion sizes

5. Limiting added sugars to less than 10% of calories per day for ages 2 and older and avoiding added sugars for infants and toddlers

Foods and beverages high in calories from added sugars should be limited to help achieve healthy dietary patterns within calorie limits. When added sugars in foods and beverages exceed 10 percent of calories, a healthy dietary pattern within calorie limits is very difficult to achieve.

Major sources of added sugars in typical U.S. diets are sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, and sweet snacks, sweetened coffee and tea, and candy.

It should be noted that replacing added sugars with low- and no-calorie sweeteners may reduce calorie intake in the short-term and aid in weight management. Yet, questions remain about their effectiveness as a long-term weight management strategy.

Where we get our added sugars from -
Data Source: Analysis of What We Eat in America, NHANES, 2013-2016, age 1 and older

6. Limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of calories per day starting at age 2

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. Approximately 5 percent of total calories inherent to the nutrient-dense foods in the Healthy U.S.-Style Dietary Pattern are from saturated fat from sources such as lean meat, poultry, and eggs; nuts and seeds; grains; and saturated fatty acids in oils. As such, there is little room to include additional saturated fat in a healthy dietary pattern while staying within limits for saturated fat and total calories.

Strategies to lower saturated fat intake include,

  • Reducing intakes of dessert and sweet snacks by consuming smaller portion sizes and eating these foods less often.
  • Reading food labels to choose packaged foods lower in saturated fats and choosing lower-fat forms of foods and beverages (e.g., fat-free or low-fat milk instead of 2 percent or whole milk; lean rather than fatty cuts of meat).
  • Cook and purchase products made with oils higher in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat (e.g., canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower) rather than butter, shortening, or coconut or palm oils.

7. Limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300mg per day (or even less if younger than 14)

Healthy eating patterns limit sodium to the Chronic Disease Risk Reduction
(CDRR) levels defined by the National Academies

  • 1,200 mg/day for ages 1 through 3;
  • 1,500 mg/day for ages 4 through 8;
  • 1,800 mg/day for ages 9 through 13; and
  • 2,300 mg/day for all other age groups.

Strategies to lower sodium intake include cooking at home more often; using the Nutrition Facts label to choose products with less sodium, reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added, etc.; and flavoring foods with herbs and spices instead of salt-based on personal and cultural foodways.

8. Limiting alcoholic beverages (if consumed) to 2 drinks or less a day for men and 1 drink or less a day for women.

First, the Dietary Guidelines do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason. There are also some people who should not drink at all, such as if they are pregnant or might be pregnant; under the legal age for drinking; if they have certain medical conditions or are taking certain medications that can interact with alcohol; and if they are recovering from an alcohol use disorder or if they are unable to control the amount they drink. If adults age 21 years and older
choose to drink alcoholic beverages, drinking less is better for health than drinking more.

Alcohol misuse or consuming alcohol in excess of recommendations increases the risk of several other conditions such as liver disease, cardiovascular disease, injuries, and alcohol use disorders.

Alcoholic beverages supply calories but few nutrients and calories from alcoholic beverages should be accounted for to keep total calorie intake at an appropriate level.

9. Provided guidance by stage of life, from birth to older adulthood, including pregnancy and lactation.

This is the first time the Dietary Guidelines has provided guidance by stage of life, from birth to older adulthood, including pregnancy and lactation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 provides guidance across all of the life stages and is organized by chapters for each life stage. The edition also emphasizes that it is never too early or too late to eat healthy!

10. Healthy Eating Index (HEI)

Since the new dietary guidelines focus on dietary patterns, the Healthy Eating Index measure is utilized a lot in the new guidelines. Most Americans still do not follow the Dietary GuidelinesThe average American diet scores a 59 out of 100 on the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), which measures how closely a diet aligns with the Dietary Guidelines Research shows that higher HEI scores can improve Americans health.

The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) is a measure of diet quality that can be used to assess compliance with the Dietary Guidelines. For Americans ages 2 and older, HEI-2015 scores indicate that intakes are not consistent with recommendations for a healthy dietary pattern. Average diet quality has slightly improved in the past 10 years, but the average score of 59 (on a scale from 0 to 100) indicates that people have much room for improvement. Differences in overall HEI scores are seen across age, sex, race-ethnic, and income subgroups and by pregnancy and lactation status, though poor diet quality is observed across all groups. With each step closer to a diet that aligns with the core elements of a healthy dietary pattern, HEI scores will increase, and the risk for chronic disease will decrease.

For more information on the Dietary Guidelines for America, visit this site.

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