The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is designed to help Americans eat a healthier diet. Intended for policy makers and health professionals, this edition of the Dietary Guidelines outlines how people can improve their overall eating patterns—the complete combination of foods and drinks in their diet. This edition offers five overarching Guidelines and a number of Key Recommendations with specific nutritional targets and dietary limits.


What Is a Healthy Eating Pattern?

An eating pattern can be defined as the combination of foods and beverages that make up an individual’s complete dietary intake over time. An eating pattern is more than the sum of its parts; it represents the totality of what individuals habitually eat and drink, and these dietary components act synergistically in relation to health. A healthy eating pattern should be tailored to the individual’s personal, cultural, and traditional preferences as well as food budget. An individual’s healthy eating pattern will vary according to his or her calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce risk for chronic disease.

The Key Recommendations for healthy eating patterns should be applied in their entirety to reflect an overall healthy eating pattern.

Consume a healthy eating pattern that accounts for all food and beverages within an appropriate calorie level.

A healthy eating pattern includes:

  • A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
  • Oils

A healthy eating pattern limits:

  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Added sugars
  • Sodium


The Guidelines

Appendix B imageU.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Executive Summary. 8th Edition
  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce risk for chronic disease.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.
  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
  5. Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.

Healthy U.S.-Style Eating PatternThis pattern is based on the types and proportions of foods Americans typically consume, but in nutrient-dense forms and appropriate amounts. It is designed to meet nutrient needs while not exceeding calorie requirements and while staying within limits for overconsumed dietary components.USDA Food Patterns

  • Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern This pattern is adapted from the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern, modifying amounts recommended from some food groups to more closely reflect eating patterns that have been associated with positive health outcomes in studies of Mediterranean-style diets. The Healthy Mediterranean-Style Pattern contains more fruits and seafood and less dairy than does the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern.
  • Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern Adapted from the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern, this pattern modifies amounts recommended from some food groups to more closely reflect eating patterns reported by self-identified vegetarians in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Dairy and eggs were included because they were consumed by the majority of these vegetarians. This pattern can be vegan if all dairy choices are comprised of fortified soy beverages (soymilk) or other plant-based dairy substitutes.