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What are Dietary Guidelines?

Allison Boelcke
By
Updated: Jan 24, 2024

Dietary guidelines are nutritional advice for Americans provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Every five years, these agencies release a new set of guidelines concerning which foods decrease chance of disease and benefit personal health. Government-sponsored diet and exercise educational programs use these guidelines as their main source to determine the focus of their programs.

All Americans over two years of age can use the dietary guidelines. They are specifically intended for an American audience due to the country’s high rate of obesity, which is thought to be caused by an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity. These guidelines are also the basis for the nutritional information on food packaging, which shows what percentages of fat, calories, and other nutrients a particular food contains. They not only outline the recommended calorie, fat, and cholesterol intake for American age groups, they also relate the specific risks of disease that come with not following the guidelines. These diseases include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.

The guidelines also serve as a way of reporting new or continuing concerns researchers have found with the American diet. This can include findings on what key nutrients they found to be lacking, such as calcium, fiber, and potassium. They also break down nutritional deficiencies found in specific age and other population groups, and gives recommendations on how to add the proper vitamins and nutrients into their diets.

Generally, dietary guidelines are not published for the average American to read. Instead, they are intended for federal policymakers, nutritionists, and medical professionals as a scientific basis to use for educating the public. The federal government uses them to decide which issues to focus on in nutritional education programs in schools, or to enact nutrition-based legislation. For example, the government used these guidelines to decide that the food must contain less than 3 grams of fat per serving to be advertised as low-fat.

Nutritionists and medical professionals use the dietary guidelines to give proper advice on diet and nutrition to their patients. These guidelines are used as a way of keeping all health professionals on the same track on what constitutes a healthy diet so that Americans don’t get conflicting health information. They also provide updated research to use as basis for diet recommendations to patients because the guidelines are subject to change every five years.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Allison Boelcke
By Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke, a digital marketing manager and freelance writer, helps businesses create compelling content to connect with their target markets and drive results. With a degree in English, she combines her writing skills with marketing expertise to craft engaging content that gets noticed and leads to website traffic and conversions. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By Crispety — On Dec 29, 2010

Suntan12-I agree that with you. I think however, if you take in whole grains instead of enriched white flour then you are eating the bread in its natural state and it will contain a higher degree of fiber which is important to develop a healthy colon and overall digestive system.

This is really an important distinction. If you stay away from foods with white flour such as white bread, and cookies and focus on whole grain rice, or whole grain bread you will not experience problems with your blood sugar.

I know that the dietary guidelines for children are similar to that of adults but they need additional servings of milk. They should have at least three to four servings of milk because it contains Vitamin D and calcium. These are really healthy dietary guidelines.

By suntan12 — On Dec 27, 2010

The recommended dietary guidelines include eating four to five fruits and vegetables, and four to five servings of whole grains and two to three servings of calcium which involve milk and cheese products.

In addition, two servings of lean protein are recommended. This would include chicken, turkey, and lean red meat like sirloin.

The dietary food guidelines also include eating seafood twice a week because these foods like salmon and tuna are high in protein and rich in Omega3 fatty acids that actually aid the heart.

Dietary intake guidelines include 2400 calories but this needs to be adjusted depending on your weight. Some say that the dietary guidelines in the food pyramid allow too many carbohydrates that often convert to sugar in the blood stream and not only does this prevent weight loss, but it may contribute to insulin problems that might lead to diabetes.

Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke, a digital marketing manager and freelance writer, helps businesses create compelling content to connect with their target markets and drive results. With a degree in English, she combines her writing skills with marketing expertise to craft engaging content that gets noticed and leads to website traffic and conversions. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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