What is a Healthy Dietary Pattern

A healthy dietary pattern includes the combination of all the foods and beverages an individual consumes over time. All foods and beverages work together to create a healthy eating puzzle to meet nutritional needs over an individual’s lifespan at each stage of life. A healthy eating pattern can be adapted in many ways to fit your lifestyle.

Following a healthy dietary pattern at each stage of life can help you meet the dietary recommendations throughout your life as you age. By meeting the recommendations, you set yourself up to achieve and maintain optimal health at any age. Healthy dietary patterns also help support a healthy body weight and can help prevent and reduce certain diseases throughout your lifetime. What does a healthy dietary pattern look like?

A healthy dietary pattern focuses on the sum of its parts rather than the individual foods or nutrients, but  it is key to focus on variety, nutrient density, and quantity. Nutrient dense foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fat-free or low fat-dairy products.

A healthy dietary pattern should include:

  • A variety of vegetables from each of the 5 groups (dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other)
  • Fruit preferably whole fruit, such as fresh, frozen, dried, or canned in 100% juice
  • Grains at least 50% of which is whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and pasta, and popcorn
  • Fat-free or low- fat dairy  such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified non-dairy soy beverages
  • A variety of protein foods  including seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy
  • Healthy oils  such as olive, canola, peanut, sesame, or vegetable oil
Pan with grains, broccoli and carrots cooking.

A healthy dietary plan should also limit:

  • Saturated fats no more than 10% of daily calories from saturated fat starting at age 2
  • Added sugar  no more than 10% of daily calories from added sugars starting at age two, and children under age 2 should avoid foods and beverages with added sugars
  • Sodium less than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day, and even less for children under age 14

A healthy eating pattern can be adapted and formed to meet personal preferences, needs, traditional and cultural customs, and budgets.  

View this resource from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for more information about starting simple to eat healthy at every stage of life.