Nutrients are required: Updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Elena Vardanian
3 min read

What we eat and what we drink has a direct impact on our health. The Dietary Guidelines is a perfect example of a governmental project for both professionals and people who want to stay healthy. First edition of The Dietary Guidelines was published in 1980 and since The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and of Health and Human Services (HHS) update the Dietary Guidelines at least every 5 years.

Although many of its recommendations have remained relatively consistent over time, the Dietary Guidelines has evolved. Early Dietary Guidelines editions used evidence that examined the relationships between individual nutrients, foods, and food groups and health outcomes exclusive of any other factors. Previous edition of The Dietary Guidelines (2015-2020) has focused its recommendations on consuming a healthy dietary pattern — the combination of foods and beverages that constitutes an individual’s complete dietary intake over time. New 2020-2025 edition keeps staying on the importance of a healthy dietary pattern as a whole.

Adjust your eating

For every life stage The Dietary Guidelines suggest following health dietary pattern:

First 6 month
For the first 6 month — infants human milk at least for the one year or iron-fortified infant formula during the first year of life when breastfeeding is not an option; supplemental vitamin D is very important soon after birth.
6-12 months At about 6 months, they suggest introducing infants to nutrient-dense complementary foods adding potentially allergenic foods along with other complementary foods. Variety of foods is a key to a healthy diet, however it is better not to skip one rich in iron and zinc, particularly for breastfeeding infants.
12 months — adulthoodFrom 12 months through older adulthood, the main recommendation is to follow a healthy dietary pattern across the lifespan to meet nutrient needs, help achieve a healthy body weight, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

The key pillars that make up a healthy dietary pattern, according to The Dietary Guidelines.

Know your limits

At every life stage, following the recommendations — even with balanced nutrition — requires most of a person’s daily calorie needs and sodium limits. A healthy dietary pattern doesn’t have much room for extra added sugars, saturated fat, or sodium — or for alcoholic beverages.

  • Added sugars — less than 10% of calories per day starting at age 2. Avoid foods and beverages with added sugars for those younger than age 2.
  • Saturated fat — less than 10% of calories per day starting at age 2.
  • Sodium — less than 2,300 mg per day — and even less for children younger than age 14.
  • Alcoholic beverages — adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women, when alcohol is consumed. Pregnant women should not drink alcohol, according to recommendations (1).

The Bottom Line

In a nutshell, The Dietary Guidelines recommend staying within calorie limits and consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages which are full of vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting components and have no or little added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.