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Ring in the New Year with the 2020 – 2025 Dietary Guidelines

Just in time to ring in the new year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services introduced the 2020 – 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The first Dietary Guidelines for Americans were published in 1980 and have been updated every 5 years, making this the 9th edition. The Guidelines are the basis for all federal nutrition programs, e.g., the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and have influenced Food and Drug Administration’s nutrition labeling requirements, e.g., daily reference values. In addition to being an every-day tool for Americans through initiatives such as MyPlate, the Guidelines have influenced how some food manufacturers formulate their products.


The theme of this edition is “Make Every Bite Count.” This is the first time the Guidelines will contain guidance for Americans for the entire lifespan, including guidance for infants, toddlers, and those who are pregnant or lactating. In the USDA’s press release, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “[w]ith the release of the dietary guidelines, we have taken the very important step to provide nutrition guidance that can help all Americans lead healthier lives by making every bite count.” The 2020 Guidelines are organized by life stage with 4 overarching principals:


  • Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage;
  • Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations;
  • Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages within calorie limits; and
  • Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.


The Guidelines stress that it is never too early or too late to eat healthfully. For about the first 6 months of life, the Guidelines recommend to exclusively feed infants human milk and to continue to feed human milk through at least the first year of life. If human milk is not available, they should be fed iron-fortified formula during the first year of life and also be provided with supplemental vitamin D soon after birth. At about 6 months, nutrient-dense complimentary foods should be introduced, including potentially allergenic foods. Foods and beverages with added sugars and high in sodium should be avoided by children under age 2.


The Guidelines are non-prescriptive and provide a framework intended to be customized to individual needs, preferences, and cultures. The Guidelines suggest that overall nutritional needs should primarily be met from nutrient-dense foods and beverages. The core elements of a healthy dietary pattern are vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, protein foods, and oils. 


During the launch event, it was noted that the 2020 Guidelines emphasize the importance of limiting added sugars and alcoholic beverages, as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in their Scientific Report, but they do not include changes to quantitative recommendations. Added sugars and saturated fats should be limited to less than 10% of calories per day starting at age 2, less than 2,300 mg of sodium should be consumed per day, and adults of legal drinking age who choose to drink should limit their alcohol intake to 2 drinks or less per day for men, and 1 drink or less per day for women.


The more information you can download and view the full edition on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans website. For questions regarding the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, please contact us.


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