About the Dietary Guidelines

Purpose

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every 5 years. Each edition of the Dietary Guidelines reflects the current body of nutrition science. 

The Dietary Guidelines provides evidence-based food and beverage recommendations for Americans across the lifespan. These recommendations aim to promote health and prevent chronic disease.

Public health agencies, health professionals, and educational institutions all rely on Dietary Guidelines recommendations and strategies. 

The Dietary Guidelines has a significant impact on nutrition in the United States because it: 

  • Forms the basis of federal nutrition policy and programs 
  • Helps guide local, state, and national health promotion and disease prevention initiatives 
  • Informs various organizations and industries, such as the food and beverage industry

Evolution and Process

The Dietary Guidelines was first released in 1980. In 1990, Congress passed the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, which mandates in Section 301 that HHS and USDA jointly review, update, and publish the Dietary Guidelines every 5 years. The current version — the ninth edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans — was published in 2020. 

With each new edition, the Dietary Guidelines evolves to address pressing public health concerns and the nutrition needs of specific populations. For example, previous editions focused on Americans ages 2 years and older. But a child's diet from birth — and a person's diet during pregnancy — can have a lasting effect on health. 

So for the first time, the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee completed scientific reviews related to infants and toddlers — as well as more in-depth reviews related to pregnancy and breastfeeding. As a result, the Dietary Guidelines, 2020–2025 includes recommendations for all life stages, including: 

  • New guidance for infants and toddlers 
  • Expanded recommendations for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding 
  • Updated recommendations for children and adolescents, adults, and older adults

Developing the Guidelines

As the first step in updating the Dietary Guidelines, HHS and USDA select nationally recognized nutrition and medical researchers, academics, and practitioners to serve on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 

The Advisory Committee examines current scientific evidence on nutrition. Its work culminates with a Scientific Report of evidence-based recommendations to the federal government. Members of the public are able to provide comments throughout that process. 

HHS and USDA use information in the Scientific Report, along with comments from the public and input from federal agencies, to inform the new edition of the Dietary Guidelines