The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Understanding Healthy Eating Patterns

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), released by the USDA, focus on the importance of adopting overall healthy eating patterns to enhance health and decrease risk for diseases across the lifespan. The Dietary Guidelines make 5 key recommendations, including:

Pan filled with fresh tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, garlic and shallots.

Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan.

Food and beverage choices act in a synergistic manner, creating an effect that is greater than the sum of the individual nutrients. Following a healthy eating pattern and consuming an appropriate caloric intake will reduce chronic disease risk and help maintain a healthy body weight. Read our handout for more information on healthy eating patterns.

Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount.

To avoid excess calories and still meet nutritional needs, focus on meeting the recommended intake for each food group with foods that are nutrient dense. Eating a variety of foods within each food group assures that you are getting all of the different vitamins and minerals required for the body to thrive.

Limit calories from saturated fats and added sugars and reduce sodium intake.

The 2015-2020 guidelines recommend consuming no more than 10% of daily calories from saturated fat, and to limit sodium intake to 2300 mg a day for those 14 and older.

In addition, they recommend limiting added sugar to no more than 10% of daily calories. This value was reduced from the 2010-2015 guidelines, which recommended a maximum of 25% of daily calories from added sugar, due to the role that excess sugar can play in disease risk and weight gain.

The 2015-2020 DGAs no longer make recommendations to limit dietary cholesterol intake, as evidence suggests it is not one of the dietary factors that greatly influences blood cholesterol levels.

Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.

Substitute less healthy options for options that are lower in calories and richer in nutrients. The majority of Americans consume less than the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, dairy foods and healthy oils, while exceeding the recommendations for sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. Small shifts or substitutions, such as swapping nutrient-dense foods for less-healthy options, can help move you toward a healthier eating pattern and ultimately make a big impact on your well-being.

Support healthy eating patterns for all.

Everyone has a role in supporting healthy eating patterns in their communities, schools, workplaces, and homes. Encourage changes in your workplace to support physical activity and healthy eating, or limit screen time in the home to inspire more active forms of play. You can also support legislation and community programs that provide nutrition education and help make healthy options accessible and affordable for all.

Did You Know?

An eating pattern represents what an individual frequently consumes over a period of time.


Eating patterns may be more predictive of health status and risk for chronic disease.


A diet is more than the sum of its parts, and habitually consuming health-promoting foods and drinks will have an enhanced effect on overall health and well-being.