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The Ultimate Guide to the New U.S. Dietary Guidelines

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are designed to help you improve your overall eating habits. Nutrition experts from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) get together to refresh them every five years. 

To help you get a better understanding of what foods you should include in your diet (or eliminate), we’ve taken all of the information and created this easy-to-reference guide. The goal is to help you find ways to start simple and incorporate modest changes each day that push you closer to meeting the recommendations and developing a healthy diet pattern.

What is a Healthy Diet Pattern?

Any healthy diet begins with a healthy diet pattern. To get on track and stay on track as you get older, start by creating healthy habits, which can begin as early as infancy.

For the first time, the 2020-2025 dietary guidelines include recommendations for infants and toddlers.

0-6
Months

0 - 6 Months

Feed infants exclusively human milk. If human milk is unavailable, feed infants iron-fortified infant formula during the first year of life.

6-12
Months

6-12 Months

Continue to feed infants human milk, but introduce infants to nutrient-dense complementary foods from all food groups.

12
Months +

12 Months and up

Once you've established a healthy dietary pattern, continue to eat nutrient-dense foods, incorporating food from all food groups.

Healthy Foods

Foods For A
Healthy Diet Pattern

The core elements that make up a healthy dietary pattern include:

Vegetables

Eat a mix of vegetables that are dark green, red or orange in color, beans, peas, and lentils, as well as starchy veggies. These include all fresh, frozen, canned, and dried options in cooked or raw forms.

Fruits

The fruit food group includes whole fruits and 100% fruit juice (diluted with water and without added sugars). Whole fruits include fresh, canned, frozen, and dried forms.

Grains

Healthy dietary patterns include mostly whole grains and a limited intake of refined grains.

Dairy

Include fat-free and low-fat (1%) milk, yogurt, and cheese. Those who are lactose intolerant can choose low-lactose and lactose-free dairy products.

Protein Foods

Include a broad group of foods from both animal and plant sources: meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

Oils

Including vegetable oils and oils in food, such as seafood and nuts.

Research shows that adhering to a healthy diet pattern can significantly cut your risk for heart disease.

Foods to Limit in Your Diet

As important as it is to add healthy foods to your diet, it’s just as important to limit those that may have a negative effect on your health. Here are the recommendations:

Added Sugars

added sugars

Less than 10% of calories per day starting at age 2. Avoid foods and beverages with added sugars for those younger than age 2.

Saturated Fat

Saturated Fat

Less than 10% of calories consumed per day should consist of saturated fat starting at age 2.

Sodium

Sodium

Less than 2,300 milligrams should be consumed per day—and even less for children younger than age 14.

Alcohol

Alcohol

Limit intake of alcoholic beverages to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women.

A healthy mix

Nutrient Dense

vegetable oils

Vegetable Oils

wheat cereal

Plain Wheat Cereal

Water

Regular or Sparkling Water

Nutrient
Dense
VS.
Typical

Typical

butter

Butter

Artificially Flavored Cereal

Artificially Flavored Cereal

soda

Soda & Added Sugar Juices

The Science
Behind the Guidelines

Healthy eating can promote health and reduce the risk of chronic disease from childhood to old age. Select an option below to learn about some of the benefits you can reap by maintaining a healthy diet pattern throughout various life stages.

  • Birth Through 23 Months
  • Children & Adolescents
  • Women Who Are Pregnant or Lactating
  • Adults, Including Older Adults
birth_through

Birth Through 23 Months

A healthy diet pattern at an early age has been scientifically proven to lower the risk of multiple conditions, including:

  • Obesity
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Iron deficiency
  • Peanut allergy
  • Asthma
Children and Adolescents

Children & Adolescents

If a healthy diet pattern is established in the first two years of life, study results show children and adolescents with lower cholesterol levels and healthier weight gain.

Pregnant Woman

Women Who Are Pregnant or Lactating

Studies show a healthy diet favorably impacting folate status in women during pregnancy and lactation and favorable cognitive development in their children.

Older Adult Woman

Adults, Including Older Adults

A healthy diet pattern throughout adulthood has been shown to lower the risk of all-cause mortality including heart disease and cancers. 

Getting Started

If you’re not sure where to start, your doctor can help you develop a plan. A healthy diet pattern is not something you can develop overnight. To get started, make an appointment to talk to your physician about the small steps you need to take to start seeing big changes in your health.