Dietary Guidelines 101



The new year has already been an exciting one for the nutrition community. In early January, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee (DGAC) released its 2015 recommendations. The Committee, which is made up of scientists, physicians, researchers and other health professionals, updates it recommendations every 5 years to reflect the most current nutrition research. The Dietary Guidelines are the foundation of nutrition policy and education in the United States. In other words, they’re important!

In its 8th version of the Dietary Guidelines, the Committee included a few new recommendations and eliminated some old ones. For example, the new Guidelines make specific recommendations for limiting added sugars and the amount of red meat in the diet. But the old restriction on limiting the number of calories from fat is no longer included (although they do specify limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of daily calories).

What’s most exciting about the new Guidelines is their focus on healthy eating patterns instead of individual nutrients. People eat nutrients (like carbohydrates and protein) in combination with other nutrients, the sum of which is a diet pattern. Strong scientific evidence suggests that these eating patterns can affect risk of chronic disease over the long term.

Of course, the Guidelines also have their critics. Some were disappointed about the somewhat weak language on soda and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption; others wanted to seeenvironmental sustainability recommendations. For an interesting take on what’s included in the new recommendations and what was omitted, read Marion Nestle’s article on her Food Politics blog. She brings an interesting perspective to the discussion.


The Guidelines

       Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

       Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.

       Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.

       Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.

       Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.


Will the new Guidelines affect the food choices you make? What do you think about the new recommendations? Leave a comment below! 




Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Marion Nestle, Food Politics

Dietary Guidelines Executive Summary