Skip to main content
Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is jointly issued and updated every 5 years by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Dietary Guidelines is a key resource for health professionals and policymakers to help Americans enjoy a healthy eating pattern, promote health, and prevent chronic disease. It is used to inform the development of Federal food, nutrition, and health policies and programs and serves as the evidence-based foundation for nutrition education materials that are developed by the Federal government for the public. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 was released on December 29, 2020, and is the 9th edition. These Guidelines will remain the current edition until the Dietary Guidelines, 2025-2030 is released.

Healthy Eating Index

The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) is a measure of diet quality that assesses conformance to federal dietary guidance. USDA’s primary use of the HEI is to monitor the diet quality of the US population and the low-income subpopulation. The HEI is also used to examine relationships between diet and health-related outcomes and between diet cost and diet quality, to determine the effectiveness of nutrition intervention programs, and to assess the quality of food assistance packages, menus, and the US food supply. The HEI is a scoring metric that can be applied to any defined set of foods, such as previously-collected dietary data, a defined menu, or a market basket.

USDA Food Patterns

The USDA Food Patterns were developed to help individuals carry out Dietary Guidelines recommendations. They identify daily amounts of foods, in nutrient-dense forms, to eat from five major food groups and their subgroups. The patterns also include an allowance for oils and limits on the maximum number of calories that should be consumed from saturated fats and added sugars (empty calories). Recommended amounts and limits in the USDA Food Patterns at 12 calorie levels, ranging from 1,000 calories to 3,200 calories, are available.

USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food

The Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal Food Plans each represent a nutritious diet at a different cost. The Thrifty Food Plan is the basis for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) allotments. The Cost of Food report is published monthly; with June costs for each year are used to represent the annual average. Alaska and Hawaii reports are published biannually.

Expenditures on Children by Families

Expenditures on Children by Families, also known as the Cost of Raising a Child, provides estimates of the cost of raising children from birth through age 17 for major budgetary components. The report, issued annually, is based on data from the Federal government’s Consumer Expenditure Survey, the most comprehensive source of information available on household expenditures. The Cost of Raising a Child Calculator is available for families to enter the number and ages of their children to obtain an estimate of costs through an interactive web version of the report.

Nutrition Evidence Systematic Review

Nutrition Evidence Systematic Review (NESR), formerly the Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL), is a team of scientists from USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) who specialize in conducting food- and nutrition-related systematic reviews. NESR’s work supports CNPP’s mission to improve the health of Americans by developing and promoting dietary guidance that links scientific research to the nutrition needs of consumers.

Nutrient Content of the US Food Supply

The Nutrient Content of the US Food Supply is a historical data series, beginning in 1909, on the amounts of nutrients per capita per day in food available for consumption.

Page updated: June 18, 2024