Dietary Guidelines for Americans—2005

Topic Overview

To prevent disease, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products. The guidelines also emphasize balancing the food you eat with your activity to maintain your weight, drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all, and limiting foods high in salt, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and added sugar.

These guidelines, developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), are updated every 5 years to promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases.

Key recommendations for the general public include the following:1

Get enough nutrients within your calorie needs

  • Eat and drink a variety of foods that are high in nutrients. Choose from within and among all the basic food groups (dairy, grains, fruits, vegetables, meats and beans, and oils) while choosing foods that limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.
  • Eat only the calories you need to maintain your weight by following a balanced eating pattern, such as the USDA food guide or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan. The number of calories you need each day depends on your age, on whether you are male or female, and on your activity level.

Weight management

  • To maintain a healthy weight, balance calories from foods and drinks with the amount of calories you burn.
  • To prevent gradual weight gain over time, make small decreases in calories from foods and drinks, and increase activity.

Physical activity

  • To promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight, get regular physical activity and limit sedentary activities.
  • To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood, do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity above your usual activity at work or home on most days of the week.
  • For most people, exercising longer and more intensively will provide even greater health benefits.
  • To manage weight and prevent gradual weight gain as an adult, do about 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity most days of the week while not exceeding calorie needs.
  • To sustain weight loss in adulthood, do at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while not exceeding calorie needs. You may need to check with your doctor before doing this much activity.
  • Achieve physical fitness by including cardiovascular (aerobic) conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility, and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.

Food groups to encourage

  • Eat enough fruits and vegetables while staying within your calorie needs. Two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day are recommended for someone who needs 2,000 calories daily to maintain weight. Higher or lower amounts may be needed depending on how many calories per day you need.
  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and others) several times per week.
  • Eat 3 or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products every day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half of your grain requirements should come from whole grains. An ounce-equivalent is 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal.
  • Have 3 cups of nonfat or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products per day. An equivalent for 1 cup of milk is 1 cup of yogurt, 1½ oz of cheese, or 2 oz of processed cheese.

Fats

  • Saturated fats: Get less than 10% of calories each day from saturated fats and less than 300 mg of cholesterol each day. Keep the amount of trans fats (hydrogenated oils) that you eat as low as possible.
  • Total fat intake: Keep your total fat intake between 20% and 35% of your calories, with most fats coming from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils found in fish, nuts, and olive, canola, and other vegetable oils.
  • When choosing meat, poultry, and milk products, choose lean, low-fat, or nonfat.
  • Limit your intake of fats and oils high in saturated fats and trans fats, and choose products low in these fats and oils.

Carbohydrate

  • Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains often.
  • Choose and prepare foods and drinks with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners.
  • Reduce cavities by practicing good oral hygiene, and by eating fewer foods and beverages that contain sugar and refined starch. Refined starch is found in highly processed breakfast cereals, instant potatoes, instant rice, or instant noodles.

Sodium and potassium

  • Limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day.
  • Choose and prepare foods with little salt.
  • Eat potassium-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Alcoholic beverages

  • If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, do so sensibly and in moderation: 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
  • Not everyone should drink alcoholic beverages. Don't drink alcohol if you cannot restrict or control your intake, are or could become pregnant or are breast-feeding, are taking medicines that may react with alcohol, or have certain medical conditions. Children and adolescents should not drink alcoholic beverages.
  • Don't drink alcoholic beverages if you are doing activities that require attention, skill, or coordination, such as driving or operating machinery.

Food safety

To avoid food-borne illness:

  • Clean your hands, surfaces that come into contact with food, and fruits and vegetables. Do not wash or rinse raw meat and poultry. Washing or rinsing meat and poultry makes it more likely that bacteria may spread from the meat or poultry to kitchen utensils, counter tops, and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Do not prepare fruit and vegetables on the same cutting board that you use for raw meat.
  • Keep raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods separate while you are shopping, preparing, and storing food.
  • Cook food to a safe temperature, to kill microorganisms.
  • Chill (refrigerate) perishable foods promptly and defrost foods properly. Never thaw frozen meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish at room temperature. Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave. If you thaw food in the refrigerator, be sure juices do not drip onto other food. Place these foods on the lowest shelf, never above ready-to-eat foods. Cook food immediately after thawing.
  • Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk or any products made from unpasteurized milk, raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs, raw or undercooked meat or poultry, unpasteurized juices, and raw sprouts.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture (2005). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005, 6th ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Also available online: http://www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines.

Credits

Author Debby Golonka, MPH
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Ruth Schneider, MPH, RD - Diet and Nutrition
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Diabetes Educator
Last Updated February 6, 2009

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.