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Health professionals recognize the benefits associated with a healthy eating plan based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,1 including:

  • Decreased risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers
  • Decreased risk of overweight and obesity
  • Decreased risk of micronutrient deficiencies

The challenge is translating this nutrition knowledge into strategies, programs, and policies that can help Americans make healthier food choices.

Nutrition professionals trying to influence dietary change must take into account a person's personal food preferences as well as their level of awareness and interest in making healthier choices. In addition, environmental factors within families, organizations, and communities must be considered.

Americans with a healthy diet:
  • Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods within and across the food groups, especially whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free milk or milk products, and lean meats and other protein sources.
  • Limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, sodium (salt), and alcohol.
  • Limit caloric intake to meet caloric needs.1

Why It's Important

Proper nutrition promotes the optimal growth and development of children. A healthy diet also helps Americans reduce their risks for many health conditions,2 including:
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Malnutrition
  • Iron-deficiency anemia
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Dyslipidemia (poor lipid profiles)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Oral disease
  • Constipation
  • Diverticular disease
  • Some cancers

What Is Known Eight states (including the District of Columbia) had state-level policies that incentivized food retail outlets to provide foods that are encouraged by the Dietary Guidelines in 2009.

12.2 percent of physician office visits by all child or adults patients included counseling about nutrition or diet in 2007 (age adjusted to the year 2000 standard population).

How To Reduce Risk

For complete recommendations, please see the Dietary Guidelines for Americans at

Key Recommendations for the General Population

Foods and Food Components To Reduce

  • Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children, and the majority of adults.
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Consume less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol.
  • Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats.
  • Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.
  • Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars, and sodium.
  • If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age.

Foods And Nutrients To Increase
Individuals should meet the following recommendations as part of a healthy eating pattern while staying within their calorie needs.
  • Increase vegetable and fruit intake.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark green and red and orange vegetables and beans and peas.
  • Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains.
  • Increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages.
  • Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
  • Increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry.

How It's Tracked

Nutrition is tracked at the national and state levels primarily through two surveys:
  • Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Adolescent and School Health.
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services.

National information is also tracked through the National Health And Nutrition Survey (NHANES), CDC/NCHS.

For more information on tracking nutrition health objectives, please visit the Nutrition and Weight Status topic at
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2005. 6th ed. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005 Jan.
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2005. 6th ed. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005 Jan.

The information provided above is from the Utah Department of Health and Human Services IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Mon, 27 May 2024 19:48:20 from Utah Department of Health and Human Services, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Thu, 29 Feb 2024 17:11:39 MST