Questions and Answers

Q: What are the major themes in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines?

A: There are 2 major themes:

  1. Balancing calories to manage body weight, which includes:
    • Controlling total calorie intake to manage body weight
    • Increasing physical activity
    • Avoiding inactivity
  2. Focusing on nutrient-dense foods and beverages, which includes:
    • Eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and seafood more often
    • Eating foods and beverages high in solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fats) and added sugars less often, and reducing sodium (salt) intake

Q: What are the differences between the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and the 2005 Dietary Guidelines?

A: Unlike the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines:

  • Emphasize managing body weight through all life stages
  • Focus on proper nutrition for children
  • Incorporate research on eating patterns
  • Present vegetarian eating pattern options
  • Address eating behaviors (e.g., eating breakfast, snacking, eating fast food)
  • Discuss the association between screen time and increased body weight
  • Identify specific foods to limit because they are high in sodium (salt), saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat, and added sugars

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines have also added:

  • A key recommendation to increase seafood intake
  • A focus on nutrients that are important to public health (potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D)
  • A new appendix table that includes key consumer behaviors and potential implementation strategies for professionals
  • New guidance on alcohol consumption for breastfeeding women

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines include a new chapter (Chapter 6) that discusses the influence of the food and physical activity environment on Americans and their daily food, beverage, and physical activity choices. This section calls for improvements to the environment through system-level changes and coordinated efforts from all sectors that influence these choices.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines indicate which food groups people should eat more or less of, rather than providing an exact amount of food to eat from each food group. This approach is directional rather than quantitative. Although the 2010 key recommendations do not specify exact quantities of what to eat, an entire chapter (Chapter 5) and several appendices discuss eating patterns that include quantities.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines provide new guidance on reducing daily sodium (salt) intake. The Guidelines state that Americans should get less than 2,300 mg of sodium each day. The Guidelines also recommend a target of less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day for people who:

  • Are age 51 and older
  • Are African American
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have diabetes
  • Have chronic kidney disease

Q: Why are only 6 key recommendations for specific population groups included in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines?

A: The 2005 Dietary Guidelines had 18 key recommendations for specific population groups and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines have 6. Many of the 2005 recommendations for specific population groups now apply to most Americans. As a result, these recommendations have been incorporated into the general key recommendations or included as topics and guidance that are discussed within the text.

Q: How did the 2010 Advisory Committee review current evidence?

A: The 2010 Advisory Committee used a new process for conducting the scientific and medical evidence review. The 2010 Advisory Committee worked with the Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL) to conduct evidence-based, systematic reviews of the research. The NEL was established by USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP). Of the Advisory Committee’s 180 research questions, 130 were addressed through this method. Read more about the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee NEL Systematic Reviews.

The Advisory Committee answered the remaining questions using data analyses, food pattern modeling analyses, and consideration of other evidence-based reviews or existing reports, such as the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Q: Were members of the public able to give input to the 2010 Advisory Committee?

A: Yes. During the development of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, members of the public were able to provide written comments and submit supporting materials through a public comments database. Members of the public submitted 765 written comments on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines development process and 1,159 comments on the 2010 Advisory Report.

The 2010 Advisory Committee also heard oral testimony. 51 organizations and individuals provided oral comments on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines development process in January 2009 and 50 organizations and individuals provided oral comments on the Advisory Report in July 2010.

Q: Who were the members of the 2010 Advisory Committee?

A: The 2010 Advisory Committee was comprised of 13 experts in nutrition and public health. Together, the Advisory Committee members have expertise in:

  • Energy balance
  • Epidemiology
  • General medicine
  • Nutritional biochemistry and physiology
  • Food safety and technology
  • Gerontology
  • Pediatrics
  • Maternal/gestational health
  • Nutrition education
  • Prevention of various chronic diseases
  • Evidence review methodology

The 2010 Advisory Committee included 7 women and 6 men of various ethnicities and ages from different regions of the country. Ethics clearance identified no potential conflicts of interests among Advisory Committee members. Learn more about each Advisory Committee member in the 2010 Advisory Report [PDF - 4.8 MB].

Q: How was the 2010 Dietary Guidelines policy document drafted?

A: USDA and HHS translated the 2010 Advisory Report into a draft of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines policy document. The departments also considered public and federal agency comments on the 2010 Advisory Report.

The draft policy document was peer-reviewed according to the Office of Management and Budget’s Quality of Information Act requirements. Several USDA and HHS agencies reviewed and cleared the policy document. The working group finalized the document and submitted it in December 2010 to the Secretaries of USDA (Tom Vilsack) and HHS (Kathleen Sebelius) for final review and approval. The Secretaries jointly released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines policy document on January 31, 2011.

Q: How were the 2010 Dietary Guidelines distributed and implemented?

A: The 2010 Dietary Guidelines policy document was released online at You can order hard copies through the Government Publishing Office.

As part of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines education and communication effort, USDA-CNPP and HHS-ODPHP developed simple, actionable messages, tools, and information based on consumer research.