US Government Issues New Dietary Guidelines

Health benefits of fish acknowledged but recommendations for consumption levels not clearly stated to consumers
January 13, 2005

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson and Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced the release of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, the federal government's science-based advice to promote health and reduce risk of chronic diseases through nutrition and physical activity.


Several of the key recommendations talk about the amount of fat that it is appropriate to have in the diet, and it says that most fat in the diet should come from sources of polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acids such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils. It also talks about the contribution that fish can make to intake of the long- chain omega 3 fatty acids. And while this is good news for aquaculture, consumers will have to look hard to find recommendations for increasing fish intake spelled out.

The sixth edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity. This joint project of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture is the latest of the five-year reviews required by federal law. It is the basis of federal food programs and nutrition education programs and supports the nutrition and physical fitness pillars of President Bush's HealthierUS Initiative.


"These new Dietary Guidelines represent our best science-based advice to help Americans live healthier and longer lives," Secretary Thompson said. "The report gives action steps to reach achievable goals in weight control, stronger muscles and bones, and balanced nutrition to help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Promoting good dietary habits is key to reducing the growing problems of obesity and physical inactivity, and to gaining the health benefits that come from a nutritionally balanced diet."


"The new Dietary Guidelines highlight the principle that Americans should keep their weight within healthful limits and engage in ample physical activity," said Secretary Veneman. "The process we used to develop these recommendations was more rigorous and more transparent than ever before. Taken together, the recommendations will help consumers make smart choices from every food group, get the most nutrition out of the calories consumed and find a balance between eating and physical activity."


Eating a healthy balance of nutritious foods continues as a central point in the Dietary Guidelines, but balancing nutrients is not enough for health. Total calories also count, especially as more Americans are gaining weight. Because almost two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and more than half get too little physical activity, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines place a stronger emphasis on calorie control and physical activity.


The Dietary Guidelines, based on the latest scientific information including medical knowledge, provides authoritative advice for people two years and older about how proper dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines were prepared in three stages. In the first, a 13-member Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee prepared a report based on the best available science. In the second stage, government scientists and officials developed the Dietary Guidelines after reviewing the advisory committee's report and agency and public comments. In the third stage, experts worked to translate the Dietary Guidelines into meaningful messages for the public and educators.


The report identifies 41 key recommendations, of which 23 are for the general public and 18 for special populations. They are grouped into nine general topics:


Adequate Nutrients Within Calorie Needs

Weight Management

Physical Activity

Food Groups to Encourage



Sodium and Potassium

Alcoholic Beverages

Food Safety

The Dietary Guidelines provide health education experts, such as doctors and nutritionists, with a compilation of the latest science-based recommendations. Consumer-friendly materials such as brochures and Web sites will assist the general public in understanding the scientific language of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and the key points that they can apply in their lives. To highlight those points, a consumer-oriented brochure accompanies the 2005 Dietary Guidelines. USDA's Food Guidance System also will serve as a tool to educate consumers on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Food Guidance System, currently called the Food Guide Pyramid, is undergoing revision and will be released in the spring of 2005.



Following is a list of key recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines.



Key Recommendations for the General Population:



To maintain body weight in a healthy range, balance calories from foods and beverages with calories expended.

To prevent gradual weight gain over time, make small decreases in food and beverage calories and increase physical activity.



Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities to promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight.

To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate- intensity physical activity, above usual activity, at work or home on most days of the week.

For most people, greater health benefits can be obtained by engaging in physical activity of more vigorous intensity or longer duration.

To help manage body weight and prevent gradual, unhealthy body weight gain in adulthood: Engage in approximately 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week while not exceeding caloric intake requirements.

To sustain weight loss in adulthood: Participate in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while not exceeding caloric intake requirements. Some people may need to consult with a healthcare provider before participating in this level of activity.

Achieve physical fitness by including cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility, and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.



Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and among the basic food groups while choosing foods that limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.

Meet recommended intakes within energy needs by adopting a balanced eating pattern, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan.



Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs. Two cups of fruit and 21/2 cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level.

Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables) several times a week.

Consume 3 or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half the grains should come from whole grains.

Consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.



To avoid microbial foodborne illness:

Clean hands, food contact surfaces, and fruits and vegetables. Meat and poultry should not be washed or rinsed to avoid spreading bacteria to other foods.

Separate raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, or storing foods.

Cook foods to a safe temperature to kill microorganisms.

Chill (refrigerate) perishable food promptly and defrost foods properly.

Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk or any products made from unpasteurized milk, raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs, or raw or undercooked meat and poultry, unpasteurized juices, and raw sprouts.



Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol, and keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible.

Keep total fat intake between 20 to 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.

When selecting and preparing meat, poultry, dry beans, and milk or milk products, make choices that are lean, low-fat, or fat-free.

Limit intake of fats and oils high in saturated and/or trans fatty acids, and choose products low in such fats and oils.



Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains often.

Choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners, such as amounts suggested by the USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan.

Reduce the incidence of dental caries by practicing good oral hygiene and consuming sugar- and starch-containing foods and beverages less frequently.



Consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt) of sodium per day.

Choose and prepare foods with little salt. At the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.



Those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation -- defined as the consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Alcoholic beverages should not be consumed by some individuals, including those who cannot restrict their alcohol intake, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, pregnant and lactating women, children and adolescents, individuals taking medications that can interact with alcohol, and those with specific medical conditions.

Alcoholic beverages should be avoided by individuals engaging in activities that require attention, skill, or coordination, such as driving or operating machinery. 


More information:


Executive Summary of Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2005 Edition)


Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2005 Edition)


Consumer Brochure: Finding Your Way to a Healthier You: Based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (PDF 258 KB)


Key Recommendations (HHS) (USDA)