by Janet Hackert,
Regional Nutrition and Health Ed. Specialist
Every five years the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services review the research and revise the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The 2015 – 2020 guidelines have a slightly different focus than in the past, looking more at the big picture of eating patterns rather than individual nutrients, and the importance of eating well wherever we are. The specific guidelines, in summary, are:
1) 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. Sample healthy eating patterns, such as a healthy Mediterranean-style eating pattern, can be found in the appendices of the Dietary Guidelines which can be found at There are also charts showing estimated calorie needs per day by age, sex, and physical activity level.
2) 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. A list of foods that are rich in certain nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D and fiber, can be found in the appendices of the guidelines.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) 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.
The recommendations, similar to past ones, now look at overall eating patterns rather than focusing on single nutrients and there has been a shift to consider the broader community in supporting healthy eating environments.
For more information on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, go to Or for information on any other topic, contact me, Janet Hackert, at 660-425-6434 or or your local University of Missouri Extension office. University of Missouri Extension – your one-stop source for practical education on almost anything.