IntroductionPrint this section
A Roadmap to the 2015-2020 Edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
People do not eat foods and nutrients in isolation but in combination, and this combination forms an overall eating pattern. A growing body of research has examined the relationship between overall eating patterns, health, and risk of chronic disease, and findings on these relationships are sufficiently well established to support dietary guidance. As a result, eating patterns and their food and nutrient characteristics are a primary emphasis of the recommendations in this 2015-2020 edition of the Dietary Guidelines. This edition of the Dietary Guidelines consists of this Introduction, three chapters, and 14 appendices:
- Chapter 1. Key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns discusses the relationship of diet and physical activity to health over the lifespan and explains the principles of a healthy eating pattern. The chapter provides quantitative recommendations for a Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern at the 2,000-calorie level as an example to show how individuals can follow these principles and recommendations. It also includes two variations at the same 2,000-calorie level as examples of other healthy eating patterns individuals can choose based on personal preference: the Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern and the Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern. Chapter 1 focuses on the first three Guidelines and the Key Recommendations.
- Chapter 2. Shifts Needed To Align with Healthy Eating Patterns compares current food and nutrient intakes in the United States to recommendations and describes the shifts in dietary choices that are needed to align current intakes with recommendations. Chapter 2 focuses on the fourth Guideline.
- Chapter 3. Everyone Has a Role in Supporting Healthy Eating Patterns explains how all individuals and segments of society in the United States have an important role to play in supporting healthy eating and physical activity choices. It outlines a variety of strategies and actions that align with the Dietary Guidelines. Chapter 3 focuses on the fifth Guideline.
- The Appendices provide additional information to support the content of the chapters, including recommendations from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans; calorie needs by age, sex, and level of physical activity; the base Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern; two other examples of healthy eating patterns: the Healthy Mediterranean-Style and Healthy Vegetarian Eating Patterns; a glossary of terms; and nutritional goals for various age-sex groups. The Appendices also include a list of selected Government resources on diet and physical activity; additional information on alcohol; lists of food sources of nutrients of public health concern; and food safety principles and guidance.
Terms To Knowmore▼
Several terms are used to operationalize the principles and recommendations of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. These terms are essential to understanding the concepts discussed herein:
Eating pattern—The combination of foods and beverages that constitute an individual’s complete dietary intake over time. Often referred to as a “dietary pattern,” an eating pattern may describe a customary way of eating or a combination of foods recommended for consumption. Specific examples include USDA Food Patterns and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan.
Nutrient dense—A characteristic of foods and beverages that provide vitamins, minerals, and other substances that contribute to adequate nutrient intakes or may have positive health effects, with little or no solid fats and added sugars, refined starches, and sodium. Ideally, these foods and beverages also are in forms that retain naturally occurring components, such as dietary fiber. All vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry—when prepared with little or no added solid fats, sugars, refined starches, and sodium—are nutrient-dense foods. These foods contribute to meeting food group recommendations within calorie and sodium limits. The term “nutrient dense” indicates the nutrients and other beneficial substances in a food have not been “diluted” by the addition of calories from added solid fats, sugars, or refined starches, or by the solid fats naturally present in the food.
Variety—A diverse assortment of foods and beverages across and within all food groups and subgroups selected to fulfill the recommended amounts without exceeding the limits for calories and other dietary components. For example, in the vegetables food group, selecting a variety of foods could be accomplished over the course of a week by choosing from all subgroups, including dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other vegetables.