Dietary Guidelines for Americans

By Kat Brown A recent ASU Nutrition Student

Nutrients supply energy and are often the building blocks our bodies need to function. Each nutrient has a role in the body. The Dietary Guideline for Americans (DGA) is developed to make recommendations on what foods and nutrients should be consumed and in what quantities. While much debate exists as to what’s the perfect diet for the average American, the goal of these guidelines is to prevent chronic disease and promote health. These guidelines are often used as the basis for nutrition policy at the federal, state, and local level. The guidelines are updated every 5 years. These guidelines are put together by experts from all over the country. The combination of nationally recognized practitioners, medical researchers, and academic contributors form what is called the Advisory Committee. The 2015 Advisory Committee consists of 73 individuals from various fields and affiliations, to view the list of participants click here.


The 2015 Dietary Guidelines are the most recent guidelines are designed to help people choose a healthy diet and 3 main focuses:

  • Balance calories with physical activity to manage weight
  • Consume more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, and seafood
  • Limit foods with sodium (salt), trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains

Often times people focus on what they have to eliminate from their diet and it can seem overwhelming and restrictive. Instead, focus on adding nutrient-dense foods to your diet and try to “eat the rainbow”. This helps to prevent sitting down with a giant plate of beige foods. Often times foods high in added sugars and fats are more affordable than healthier food options. A good tip for planning meals on a budget is to choose vegetables that are on sale and add them to dishes you already make. This will bulk up the meal and provide essential nutrients, also you are more likely to get full from the fiber the vegetables will provide help to minimize portion sizes.

Limiting added sugars has become a large focus and is often a source of added calories that can have negative effects on an individual’s health. Added sugars can come from lots of sources but most often come from processed foods and sodas. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda has been linked to higher calorie intake, lower nutrient intake, and an increased risk for obesity. The American Heart Association also recommends minimizing consumption of beverages that contain added sugars in order to promote heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Eliminating soda from your diet or cutting back your soda consumption is a quick and easy way to eliminate added sugars from your diet.

Another easy way to cut back excess calories is to know your portion sizes. We have become so used to giant portion sizes in our country that when you first start measuring our actual portion sizes you might be in for a surprise. While the DGA is designed to help us make the best dietary decisions they don’t correlate with food companies. So when you look at food labels in the store all serving sizes vary and may not necessarily correlate with an actual serving size of that food item. A study from 2001 found that portion for foods such as cookies, pasta, and bagels was listed anywhere from 200-700% over the recommended USDA portion size. This can make it confusing and may seem like more work at first. Once you start to see what an actual portion size is and how it looks on your plate it won’t take long until you can identify proper portion sizes.

Looking for more tips and tricks like this to keep your family happy and healthy? Check out the Fill Your Plate Blog. Looking for some new recipes to try out? Check out the Recipe Section of our website. How about some fresh produce that the whole family will enjoy? Check out the local Farmers Markets near you.

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