Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Nutrition,  Rants

Thoughts on the Dietary Guidelines for AmericansThis article is a 3 min read

The US Department of Health and Human Services publishes Dietary Guidelines for Americans every 5 years if needed. These guidelines are purportedly based on the latest scientific evidence. The 2010 and 2015 guidelines share many similarities but there are some key differences. The most striking change is the change in focus from the two points of emphasis in 2010 (1) maintaining calorie-balance over time to achieve and sustain a healthy weight and (2) focusing on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages to eating patterns and the nutrient characteristics in 2015. This fundamental shift was brought about because people do not eat foods in isolation but rather build a style of eating. This recognizes that peoples style of eating is and can be individualized based on personal preferences and situations.

2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

In the 2015 guidelines, the consumer is provided definitions to help clarify what is meant by “eating patterns”, “nutrient dense”, and “variety”. This is important as they are central to the theme of the 2015 guidelines. In the 2010 guidelines, the recommendations were on “foods to decrease” and “foods to increase” which in 2015 which speaks to making swaps to healthier whole foods. Some of the other notable changes are new recommendations on sugar intake, modifying the targets for sodium, removal of the limit of calories from fat, and adding coffee and caffeine to the list. One major omission is the absence of a recommendation for dietary cholesterol. Even though the recommendation has been removed the guidelines potentially confuse the public by stating “this change does not suggest that dietary cholesterol is no longer important to consider when building healthy eating patterns.” Finally, I did not find any information food safety in the 2015 guidelines.

Where to go from 2020?

Going forward I think the Guidelines should address issues such as diet across the lifespan are important while stressing the idea that nutritional needs change as one ages. Also, as organized sports participation continues to experience high participation rates, adding information targeting youth-athletes and their parents who rely on sometimes poor advice from coaches and media may help student-athletes improve diet and possibly prevent fad or dangerous diet habits. Taking on red meat with more vigor not only from a personal health standpoint (inflammatory processes) but also a planetary health issue as plant-based diets have been shown to be more sustainable (“The New Focus on Sustainability: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and for Our Planet,” 2017). Finally, going forward, putting greater emphasis that sugar-sweetened beverages should be reduced where there is clear scientific evidence that these are associated with poor health. The scientific committee of the guidelines recommended these issues (sugar and red meat) be included in the 2015 guidelines but they were specifically censored by the USDA (“New dietary guidelines remove restriction on total fat and set limit for added sugars…,” 2017).


New Dietary Guidelines remove restriction on total fat and set limit for added sugars but censor conclusions of the scientific advisory committee. (2017, November 20). Retrieved from

The new focus on sustainability: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and for our planet. (2017, November 20). Retrieved from

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