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 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines is the 8th edition and remains the current edition until the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines is released.


MyPlate is part of a larger communication initiative based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans with the goal of helping consumers make better food choices. MyPlate is designed to remind Americans to eat healthfully; it is not intended to change consumer behavior alone. MyPlate illustrates the five food groups using a familiar mealtime visual, a place setting. MiPlato is the Spanish-language version of MyPlate. The MyPlate icon is available in multiple languages.

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.

USDA’s Nutrition Evidence Library

USDA’s Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL) is an entity that specializes in conducting systematic reviews to inform Federal nutrition policy and programs. The NEL is managed and staffed by the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP). NEL staff collaborate with leading scientists to objectively review, evaluate, and synthesize research to answer important food- and nutrition-related public health questions. The NEL uses a rigorous, protocol-driven methodology.  This methodology is designed to minimize bias; to ensure that its systematic reviews are relevant, timely, high quality, and reproducible; and to maximize transparency. Using the NEL evidence-based approach supports scientific integrity and compliance with the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001 (Data Quality Act). This Act states that Federal agencies must ensure the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of the information used to form Federal guidance.

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Know Your Farmer, Know your Food (KYF2) is a USDA-wide effort to strengthen local and regional food systems. The mission of KYF2 is to support the critical connection between farmers and consumers and to strengthen USDA's support for local and regional food systems. To make the most of USDA programs available to support local and regional food systems, KYF2 works to foster innovative, effective and open government. The initiative is carried out by a task force of USDA employees representing every agency within the Department. It breaks down bureaucratic silos, develops common-sense solutions, and fosters new partnerships inside USDA and across the country.

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. 

What's Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl

The What's Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl is an interactive tool to help with healthy meal planning, cooking, and grocery shopping. The site features a searchable database of healthy recipes, options to save recipes to a cookbook, print recipe cards, and share recipes via social media. All of the recipes previously on have been moved to this website and join thousands more from other USDA programs: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), USDA Foods, and Team Nutrition.

Pregnancy and Birth to 24 Months Project

The Agricultural Act of 2014 requires the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to include guidance for women who are pregnant and children from birth to 24 months of age, beginning with the 2020-2025 edition. Preliminary work on these important populations has been initiated by USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and HHS’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Findings from this work will be available to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for consideration as part of its review of evidence on diet and health related to pregnancy and the birth to 24 months populations.

Internship Program

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) offers internship programs for college undergraduate and graduates students. Each program has unique eligibility requirements, qualifications, application processes, service obligations, and training and development experiences.

Health and Medicine Division Study

USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion is engaging the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Health and Medicine Division (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine) to conduct a study on the process of developing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. As the Center began the process of engaging the Health and Medicine Division, listening sessions were held with a range of stakeholders, representing health professional and public health organizations, academia, industries and others.

Archived Projects

This section contains information on projects that are no longer active at CNPP. They are for provided for historical purposes. These projects include Nutrition Insights, MyPyramid, Food Guide Pyramid, Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children, Family Economics and Nutrition Review, Symposium on Diet and Gene Interactions, Symposium on Nutrition and Aging), The Great Nutrition Debate Symposium, Symposium on Breakfast & Learning in Children, and Childhood Obesity Symposium.