2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

1.9.16 / Comment

Every five years, a new dietary guideline comes out, which focuses on making recommendations for the components of a healthy and nutritionally adequate diet to help promote health and prevent chronic disease for current and future generations. As scientific knowledge increases, the guidelines change to reflect those discoveries so as best to provide Americans with the best information possible. For the 2015-2020 issue, healthy eating is this issue’s primary focus.

We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat”, but have you ever stopped to think about what that means for you? Never under-estimate the power of food—what we put into our bodies can significantly alter how we feel, move, and think. Over the past one hundred years, chronic diet-related diseases have risen, mainly due to poor lifestyle choices, and with these choices, a lack of physical activity and solid nutrition have created health issues that face the majority of the American population. Obesity plagues over 2/3 of adult Americans, and it’s only getting worse, as obesity and related diseases have also spread to children, negatively impacting their health.

The Dietary Guidelines provide critical information to health professionals so they can counsel Americans to make better, healthier choices in their daily lives, so as to help prevent chronic diseases and other related issues. With scientific research guiding these suggestions, only the most up-to-date information is provided and used to benefit the American population. For example, the average American fails to consume the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, protein, and healthy fats that is recognized for optimal health.

DGA graphic

According to the Dietary Guidelines, a healthy eating pattern includes:

  • A variety of vegetables from all the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes, starchy and other.
  • Fruits, especially whole.
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains.
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy.
  • A variety of proteins, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
  • Oils

Conversly, a healthy eating pattern limits the following items:

  • Saturated fats (consume less than 10% of calories)
  • Trans fats (avoid items that contain this type of fat)
  • Added sugars (consume less than 10% of calories)
  • Sodium (consume less than 2,300 mg per day)

The guidelines also recommended examples for three healthy eating patterns:

  • Healthy US-Style Eating
  • Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating. This diet traditionally focuses on eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. It also suggests eating healthy fats, such as olive oil, using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods, and limiting red meat consumption. A few fabulous great whole grain options are whole grain sorghum (which is gluten-free), or Freekeh whole grains, which are high in protein and can be used in a multiude of dishes.
  • Healthy Vegetarian-Style Eating. This diet takes a no-meat approach, and focuses on whole, raw foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, legumes, nuts and healthy fats. While there are many recipes available that are vegetarian, not all of them are healthful. The diet should mainly center around fresh food and un-processed items so as to gain the best benefits that vegetarianism has to offer. A great way to incorporate dairy into your diet is to partake in Daisy Brand cottage cheese, as this product is rich in calcium, protein and nutrients. With only 90 calories in ½ cup, this is a great addition to any snack you choose to have! You can also load up on protein with Manitoba Hemp Hearts, which are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

To help Americans implement a healthy lifestyle change, the Dietary Guidelines offers options on how to increase consumption by providing practical, easy ways to incoporate a certain food group into diets. This is reflected in the creation of MyPlate , as this website has clear, visual representations of what a healthy, balanced meal should look like to benefit everyone.


Just making a few small changes that are easy to comply with make living healthy more manageable and more enjoyable! It may not seem like it, but if we change small things about our lifestyle, we can make a big impact on those around us. Improving our nation’s health isn’t going to be easy, but with supportive information from health care providers, and individuals making (and sharing) lifestyle changes, it doesn’t seem as daunting. Let’s see how much of a difference we can make this year!

Written by Sarah Achleithner, Nutrition Communications Coordinator for Triad to Wellness

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