What does a healthy eating pattern include?

The 2015-2020 Guidelines earmark ‘variety’ as a factor which should be key to American’s diet. Their specific list of what individuals should consume as part of a healthy diet 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

For the first time ever the Dietary Guidelines recommend people limit their added sugar consumption to less than 10% of their calories per day. Saturated fats should also be limited to less than 10% of calorie intake per day, according to the report. Also, since evidence on dietary cholesterol limits was found to be inadequate, the new guidelines no longer recommend limiting consumption of dietary cholesterol to 300mg/day and include eggs in all three recommended healthy eating patterns. However, given that foods high in dietary cholesterol also tend to have more saturated fat, dietary cholesterol is still an important factor to consider.


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According to the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)2, more than 90% of children and 89% of adults aged 19 and older eat too much sodium, that is, more than the recommended limits in the new guidelines, not including salt added at the table. The new guidelines recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300mg/day for people over the age of 14 and less for those younger.  These recommendations are based on evidence showing a direct link between increase in sodium intake and elevations in blood pressure.