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Food-based dietary guidelines - Unites States of America (2010)

Official name

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.

Publication year

The United States of America published the 7th edition of its ‘Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ in December 2010.

Process and stakeholders

The guidelines are jointly issued every 5 years by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). There are two stages to the revision process. In the first stage, a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (the Committee or DGAC) is chartered, which is composed of experts in the fields of human nutrition and chronic disease prevention.

The DGAC reviews the current edition of the guidelines and determines topics for which new scientific evidence is available that may inform revisions to existing recommendations or suggest new guidance. The DGAC examines the state of current scientific evidence using systematic reviews, data analyses, and/or food pattern modelling analyses. Additional sources of information may include scientific evidence-based reports, input from expert guest speakers, as well as oral and written comments from the public.

The DGAC submits an advisory report of its recommendations with rationales to the Secretaries of HHS and USDA for consideration in developing the next edition of the guidelines policy document.

During the second stage of the revision process, HHS and USDA develop the policy document. It is based on the Committee’s report and a consideration of comments from public and federal agencies.

Target audience

The guidelines are intended for policy-makers, nutrition educators and health professionals in developing nutrition policy, nutrition education messages, and consumer materials for the general public and for specific audiences, such as children.

Recommendations from the guidelines are intended for Americans aged 2 years and over, including those at increased risk of chronic disease.

Food guide

The 2010 USDA Food Patterns (Dietary Guidelines, Appendices 7 and 8) were developed to help individuals carry out the recommendations in the guidelines. They identify daily amounts of foods, in nutrient-dense forms, to eat from five major food groups and their subgroups. The patterns also include an allowance for oils and limits on the maximum number of calories that should be consumed from solid fats and added sugars (empty calories).

The US Federal Government’s food icon, MyPlate, serves as a reminder to help consumers make healthier food choices. The MyPlate icon emphasizes the fruit, vegetable, grains, protein foods, and dairy groups. MyPlate is a new generation icon with the intention to prompt consumers to think about building a healthy plate at meal times. ChooseMyPlate.gov offers resources and detailed information about the USDA Food Guidance System for professional and consumer audiences. A Spanish version of MyPlate, MiPlato, is also available.


The following are the key recommendations of the guidelines for the general public and specific population groups.

Balancing calories to manage weight

  • Prevent and/or reduce overweight and obesity through improved eating and physical activity behaviours.
  • Control total calorie intake to manage body weight. For people who are overweight or obese, this will mean consuming fewer calories from foods and beverages.
  • Increase physical activity and reduce time spent in sedentary behaviours.
  • Maintain appropriate calorie balance during each stage of life – childhood, adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy and breastfeeding, and older age.

Foods and food components to reduce

  • Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the US population, including children, and the majority of adults.
  • Consume less than 10 per cent of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Consume less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol.
  • Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats.
  • Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.
  • Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars, and sodium.
  • If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation – up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men – and only by adults of legal drinking age.*

Foods and nutrients to increase

Individuals should meet the following recommendations as part of a healthy eating pattern while staying within their calorie needs:

  • Increase vegetable and fruit intake.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark green and red and orange vegetables, and beans and peas.
  • Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Increase wholegrain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains.
  • Increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages.**
  • Choose a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
  • Increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry.
  • Replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories and/or are sources of oils.
  • Use oils to replace solid fats where possible.
  • Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fibre, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products.

Building healthy eating patterns

  • Select an eating pattern that meets nutrient needs over time at an appropriate calorie level.
  • Account for all foods and beverages consumed and assess how they fit within a total healthy eating pattern.
  • Follow food safety recommendations when preparing and eating foods to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses.

Recommendations for specific population groups

Women capable of becoming pregnant***

  • Choose foods that supply haem iron, which is more readily absorbed by the body, additional iron sources, and enhancers of iron absorption such as vitamin C-rich foods.
  • Consume 400 micrograms (mcg) per day of synthetic folic acid (from fortified foods and/or supplements) in addition to food forms of folate from a varied diet.****

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding***

  • Consume 8–12 ounces of seafood per week from a variety of seafood types.
  • Due to their high methyl mercury content, limit white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces per week and do not eat the following four types of fish: tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.
  • If pregnant, take an iron supplement, as recommended by an obstetrician or other healthcare provider.

Individuals aged 50 years and older

  • Consume foods fortified with vitamin B12, such as fortified cereals, or dietary supplements.


*See Chapter 3, Foods and Food Components to Reduce, for additional recommendations on alcohol consumption and specific population groups. There are many circumstances when people should not drink alcohol.

**Fortified soy beverages have been marketed as ‘soymilk’, a product name consumers could see in supermarkets and consumer materials. However, US Food and Drug Administration regulations do not contain provisions for the use of the term soymilk. Therefore, in the guidelines the term ‘fortified soy beverage’ includes products that may be marketed as soymilk.

***Includes adolescent girls.

****‘Folic acid’ is the synthetic form of the nutrient, whereas ‘folate’ is the form found naturally in foods.