Student Lunch Program » Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Message from the Secretaries of Agriculture and Human Health and Services Department

One of our Government’s most important responsibilities is to protect the health of the American public. Today, about half of all American adults—117 million people—have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity. Rates of these chronic, diet-related diseases continue to rise, and they come not only with increased health risks, but also at high cost. In 2008, the medical costs linked to obesity were estimated to be $147 billion. In 2012, the total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes was $245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in decreased productivity.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is an essential resource for health professionals and policymakers as they design and implement food and nutrition programs that feed the American people, such as USDA’s National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, which feed more than 30 million children each school day. The Dietary Guidelines also provides information that helps Americans make healthy choices for themselves and their families.

The 2015 – 2020 Edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is grounded in the most current scientific evidence and is informed by the recommendations of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. This Federal advisory committee, which was composed of prestigious researchers in the fields of nutrition, health, and medicine, conducted a multifaceted, robust process to analyze the available body of scientific evidence. Their work culminated in a scientific report which provided advice and recommendations to the Federal

Government on the current state of scientific evidence on nutrition and health. Informed by this report and by consideration of public and Federal agency comments, HHS and USDA nutrition and health experts then developed the Dietary Guidelines.

The latest Dietary Guidelines provides guidance for choosing a healthy diet and focuses on preventing the diet-related chronic diseases that continue to affect our population. Its recommendations are ultimately intended to help individuals improve and maintain overall health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Its focus is disease prevention, not treatment. This edition also includes data describing the significant differences between Americans’ current consumption and the Dietary Guidelines recommendations. It also recommends where shifts are encouraged to help people achieve healthy eating patterns. These analyses will assist professionals and policymakers as they use the Dietary Guidelines to help Americans adopt healthier eating patterns and make healthy choices in their daily lives, while enjoying food and celebrating cultural and personal traditions through food. Now more than ever, we recognize the importance of focusing not on individual nutrients or foods in isolation, but on everything we eat and drink—healthy eating patterns as a whole—to bring about lasting improvements in individual and population health.

The body of scientific literature looking at healthy eating patterns and their impact on disease prevention is far more robust now than ever before. Chronic diet-related diseases continue to rise and levels of physical activity remain low. Progress in reversing these trends will require comprehensive and coordinated strategies, and the Dietary Guidelines is an important part of a complex and multifaceted solution to promote health and help to reduce the risk of chronic disease. The Dietary Guidelines translates science into succinct, food-based guidance that can be relied upon to help Americans choose a healthy eating pattern and enjoyable diet. We believe that aligning with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines will help many Americans lead healthier and more active lives.

Sylvia M. Burwell
Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services
Thomas J. Vilsack
Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture