Over the past century, deficiencies of essential nutrients have dramatically decreased, many infectious diseases have been conquered, and the majority of the U.S. population can now anticipate a long and productive life. At the same time, rates of chronic diseases—many of which are related to poor quality diet and physical inactivity—have increased. About half of all American adults have one or more preventable, diet-related chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and overweight and obesity. 

However, a large body of evidence now shows that healthy eating patterns and regular physical activity can help people achieve and maintain good health and reduce the risk of chronic disease throughout all stages of the lifespan.  The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reflects this evidence through its recommendations. 

The Dietary Guidelines is required under the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, which states that every 5 years, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and of Agriculture (USDA) must jointly publish a report containing nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public. The statute (Public Law 101-445, 7 U.S.C. 5341 et seq.) requires that the Dietary Guidelines be based on the preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge. The 2015-2020 edition of the Dietary Guidelines builds from the 2010 edition with revisions based on the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and consideration of Federal agency and public comments. 

The Dietary Guidelines is designed for professionals to help all individuals ages 2 years and older and their families consume a healthy, nutritionally adequate diet. The information in the Dietary Guidelines is used in developing Federal food, nutrition, and health policies and programs. It also is the basis for Federal nutrition education materials designed for the public and for the nutrition education components of HHS and USDA food programs. It is developed for use by policymakers and nutrition and health professionals. Additional audiences who may use Dietary Guidelines information to develop programs, policies, and communication for the general public include businesses, schools, community groups, media, the food industry, and State and local governments. 

Previous editions of the Dietary Guidelines focused primarily on individual dietary components such as food groups and nutrients. However, people do not eat food groups and nutrients in isolation but rather in combination, and the totality of the diet forms an overall eating pattern. The components of the eating pattern can have interactive and potentially cumulative effects on health. These patterns can be tailored to an individual’s personal preferences, enabling Americans to choose the diet that is right for them. 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 focus of the recommendations in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines provides five overarching Guidelines that encourage healthy eating patterns, recognize that individuals will need to make shifts in their food and beverage choices to achieve a healthy pattern, and acknowledge that all segments of our society have a role to play in supporting healthy choices. These Guidelines also embody the idea that a healthy eating pattern is not a rigid prescription, but rather, an adaptable framework in which individuals can enjoy foods that meet their personal, cultural, and traditional preferences and fit within their budget. Several examples of healthy eating patterns that translate and integrate the recommendations in overall healthy ways to eat are provided.  

The Guidelines

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.

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.

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.

Page xii — 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans 

Key Recommendations provide further guidance on how individuals