The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is here. What does it mean for you?

  • 3 Minutes Read
Sue Heikkinen
Sue Heikkinen, MS, RDN, CDCES, BC-ADM, ACE-PT - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides four key messages for healthy nutrition across the lifespan. Learn what they are, what they mean, and how (and if) they apply to you.

2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines

What is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025?

Updated every five years, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is jointly published by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. The Dietary Guidelines provides recommendations for food choices to meet nutrition needs while promoting health and reducing chronic disease risk. It also guides U.S. nutrition policies, programs, and educational materials.

4 takeaways from the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines

1. Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.

The new guidelines provide a lifespan approach to healthy eating. The Dietary Guidelines addresses infants and toddlers for the first time, focusing on dietary strategies to lower the risk of overweight and obesity, diabetes, iron deficiency, asthma, and peanut allergy.

The Dietary Guidelines offers Mediterranean, vegetarian, and DASH diets as examples of healthy diet patterns and states that a healthy diet pattern includes:

2. Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.

No guideline or eating plan will be useful if it doesn't take these essential factors into account. After all, our personal and cultural food preferences are near and dear to us. While eating healthy on a budget is possible, income level is a significant factor in diet quality, risk of obesity, and chronic disease.

The guidelines do not promote specific foods but provide groups of foods from which to choose. Indeed, healthy eating is flexible, not one-size-fits-all.

3. Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits.

Nutrient-dense foods are rich in vitamins and minerals and have minimal added sugars, fats, and oils. Think of eating grilled chicken instead of chicken nuggets or oatmeal instead of an oatmeal cookie.

The Dietary Guidelines provides examples of general calorie targets based on life stage. MyNetDiary helps you determine your personal calorie goal based on your age, height, current weight, weight goals, and activity level.

4. Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium and limit alcoholic beverages.

The Dietary Guidelines states that a healthy dietary pattern doesn't have much room for these components, promoting the "85-15" rule. This rule advises that 85 percent of our calories come from nutrient-dense foods. The remaining 15 percent of calories can come from a combination of added sugars, oils, or alcohol. In other words, this is about 250-350 calories to use at your discretion. If you are on a reduced-calorie plan for weight loss, keep in mind that you will have even less room in your budget for these "extras."

More specific recommendations

Added sugars

More than half of U.S. adults exceed this limit for added sugars, with sugar-sweetened beverages providing the largest source of added sugars. It adds up quickly-50 grams of added sugar in a 16-ounce soda makes up 10 percent of calories in a 2000-calorie plan. Given that infants and toddlers have such small calorie intakes, any added sugars will crowd out crucial nutrient-rich foods.

Note that added sugars do not refer to naturally occurring sugars found in fruit, milk, and some vegetables.

Saturated fat

Saturated fats, found mostly in meat and dairy foods, can raise blood cholesterol levels. The Dietary Guidelines advises replacing saturated fats with healthier unsaturated fats, found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and vegetable oils. About 70 percent of adults exceed 10 percent of calories from saturated fat.


Alcoholic beverages

Excess alcohol use comes with many risks, including injuries, mental health problems, liver disease, and heart disease. Even low-to-moderate alcohol intake can increase the risk of certain cancers. Keep in mind that your generous pour of wine may count as more than one drink. A drink is defined as 5 ounces wine, 12 ounces beer, or 1.5 ounces liquor.

Additional considerations

Never without controversy, updates always garner concern regarding pressure from industry groups affecting the results. Some groups believe the targets, especially for added sugar and alcohol, aren't strict enough. Indeed, the Dietary Guidelines Scientific Advisory Committee proposed tighter limits on alcohol and sugar that did not get applied.

Unfortunately, most Americans don't even meet the current recommendations. On a scale of 0-100, with 100 representing full adherence to the Dietary Guidelines, the average American's score is only 59.

Remember that the Dietary Guidelines emphasizes health promotion, but not the management of specific conditions. Follow the advice of your healthcare provider for your particular health concerns.

How MyNetDiary can help:

You can use the Dietary Guidelines as your roadmap, or you may prefer to set your own targets based on your health goals and medical advice. No matter your plan, MyNetDiary allows you to customize your nutrient targets and monitor your intake.

Still new to MyNetDiary? Learn more today by downloading the app for FREE.

Meal Planning & Diets->Healthy Eating
Jan 13, 2021

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