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Make Every Bite Count: USDA Releases Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025

11 months ago

6743  0
Posted on Dec 30, 2020, 6 a.m.

The USDA has just released the Dietary Guidelines For Americans 2020-2025, these dietary guidelines have been released every 5 years since 1980. The foods and beverages we consume can have a profound impact on our health, these guidelines are released in hopes to help Americans eat a healthy balanced diet to optimize health.

While the science linking food and health has only become stronger, our Healthy Eating Index (HEI) score has unfortunately remained low. The HEI measures how closely food and beverage choices align with the ​Dietary Guidelines​, with a maximum score of 100. Scores have remained far below recommendations and they have stayed relatively consistent being 56 during the time period of 2005-2006, being 57 in 2007-2008, 59 in 2009-2010, 60 in 2011-2012, 59 in 2013-2014, and 59 in 2015-2016. 


  • 60% of adults have one or more diet-related chronic diseases.
  • About 74% of adults are overweight or obese.
  • About 40% of children and teens are overweight or obese.

Yet we are not following a healthy dietary pattern, despite science showing the benefits and societal outcomes along with science showing the harms of not following a healthy dietary pattern. Our HEI score is higher early in life and in older adulthood, but we all fall short of following the ​Dietary Guidelines​ (maximum total score is 100). Ages 2-4 is 61, 5-8 is 55, 9-13 is 52, 14-18 is 51 which is the lowest, 19-30 is 56, 31059 is 50, and ages 60+ is the highest at 63. 

Healthy eating is important at every life stage. For the first time, the ​Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025​ provides recommendations for each life stage, from birth through older adulthood. Nutrient needs vary over the lifespan and each life stage has unique implications for food and beverage choices and disease risk.

How do we “make every bite count”? Focus on nutrient-dense foods and beverages, limit those higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and stay within calorie limits. Meeting food group recommendations—with nutrient-dense foods and beverages—should be taking up most of a person’s daily calorie limit. 

Approximately 85% of calories are needed per day to meet food group recommendations healthfully, in nutrient-dense forms. A maximum of 15% of the remaining calories are available for other uses, including added sugars and saturated fats. 

When deciding what to eat or drink, follow these three key dietary principles:

  1. Meet nutritional needs primarily from nutrient-dense foods and beverages.
  2. Choose a variety of options from each food group: vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein foods.
  3. Pay attention to portion size.

The bottom line:

For lifelong good health, make every bite count with the ​Dietary Guidelines for Americans.​

The News Release:

(Washington, D.C., December 29, 2020) Nutrition in America took a major step forward today with the publication of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. Jointly published by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) every five years, the guidelines provide science-based recommendations designed to foster healthy dietary patterns for Americans of all ages – from birth through older adults. Importantly, this edition expands the guidance, for the first time including recommended healthy dietary patterns for infants and toddlers. 

“At USDA and HHS, we work to serve the American people – to help every American thrive and live healthier lives through access to healthy foods and providing nutrition recommendations,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “With 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.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans is the nation’s trusted resource for evidence-based nutrition guidance. The guidelines are designed for use by healthcare professionals and policy makers for outreach to the general public and provide the nutritional foundation for federal nutrition programs. The dietary guidelines should not be considered clinical guidelines for the treatment of disease.

“The science tells us that good nutrition leads to better health outcomes, and the new dietary guidelines use the best available evidence to give Americans the information they need to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “USDA and HHS have expanded this edition of the dietary guidelines to provide new guidance for infants, toddlers, and pregnant and breastfeeding women, helping all Americans to improve their health, no matter their age or life stage.”

As always, the new guidelines build on the previous editions and were informed by the scientific report developed by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, along with comments from the public and input from federal agencies. USDA and HHS thank the committee for their work and dedication over the last fifteen months, providing the departments with a comprehensive scientific review and proposal of overarching recommendations, a highly regarded step of critical importance in dietary guidelines development. USDA and HHS also made transparency a priority in this edition and appreciate the many public comments that were received throughout this process. 

Today’s release provides the public with the most up-to-date evidence on dietary behaviors that promote health and may help prevent chronic disease. Steeped in scientific evidence, the key recommendations look similar to those of the past and address two topics that garnered much attention throughout the development of the guidelines – added sugars and alcoholic beverages. 

As in previous editions, limited intake of these two food components is encouraged. In fact, this sentiment remains prominent throughout the policy document and complements the four overarching guidelines, which encourage Americans to “Make Every Bite Count” by: 

  • Following a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage. 
  • Customizing and enjoying nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.
  • Focusing on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages from five food groups – vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and fortified soy alternatives, and proteins – and staying within calorie limits. 
  • Limiting foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limiting alcoholic beverages.

For consumers, USDA’s MyPlate translates and packages these principles of dietary guidance for Americans in a way that is handy and accessible. To share these messages broadly, USDA offers the Start Simple with MyPlate campaign and a new MyPlate website to help individuals, families, and communities make healthy food choices that are easy, accessible, and affordable, in addition to helping prevent chronic disease. For more information, please visit

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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement

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