This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Learn more x


Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Released

By Michael McBurney

The US Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture announced the release of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans today. While acknowledging successes in reducing deficiencies of essential nutrients, poor diet quality and physical inactivity are contributing to increased prevalence of chronic diseases. The 8th edition focuses on eating patterns, rather than emphasizing food groups and nutrients as in previous editions.

The 5 overarching principles are:

1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. By reading food labels and using food composition databases, we can make informed choices on the number of calories in a serving of food. This will help us balance energy intake with activity levels to maintain a healthy weight. In addition, we want to make nutrient-dense choices. See guideline 2 and 4 below.

2. Focus on variety, nutrient density and amount.  Protein, essential fats, vitamins and mineral recommendations must be with the number of calories we consume to maintain a healthy weight. When people are being advised to reduce or restrict calories, our food choices must be more nutrient-dense. They must contain more vitamins and minerals per serving (or 100 calories) for us to meet dietary intake recommendations. Otherwise, our risk of essential nutrient deficiency increases.

3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Not much to add to this message, it is pretty direct.

4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Nutrient-dense  foods are those which are a good source of essential nutrients . The FDA defines a food providing 10% of the Daily Value (DV) to be a good source. If a food serving has 20% DV per serving, it is an excellent source of a vitamin or mineral. By choosing 10 food servings containing 10% DV for vitamin C, one should meet their vitamin C requirement. 100% of the DV could also be obtained by eating 5 servings with 20% DV pers serving. When foods are good or excellent sources of multiple vitamins and minerals, they are considered to be more nutrient-dense.  

5. Support healthy eating patterns for all. Help create and support these eating patterns everywhere - schools, homes, work, etc.

Finally, the report acknowledges that most Americans fail to consume recommended amounts of vitamins A, C, D, E, dietary fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and choline. For females in their reproductive years, iron should be added to the list. The Guidelines recommend consuming 8 ounces of seafood, 2 servings, weekly to obtain 250 mg eicospentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  

All of us should be striving to follow the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) Recommended Intakes for Individuals (RDAs and AIs) for vitamins and minerals . Fortified foods are an important source of nutrient-dense foods. Dietary supplements can help fill vitamin, mineral and omega-3 gaps.

Main Citation

US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at

Other Citations

Fulgoni VL, Buckley RB. The contribution of ready-to-eat cereal to vitamin and mineral intake in the US population, NHANES 2008-2010. 2015 Nutrients doi: 10.3390/nu7063949

Berner LA, Keast DR, Bailey RL, Dwyer JT. Fortified foods are major contributors to nutrient intakes in diets of US children and adolescents. 2014 J Acad Nutr Diet doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.10.012

Calvo MS, Whiting SJ. Survey of current food fortification practices in the United States and Canada. 2013 J Steroid Bioch Molecul Biol doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2012.09.034

Bailey RL, Fulgoni VL, Keast DR, Dwyer JT. Examination of vitamin intakes among US adults by dietary supplement use. 2012 J Acad Nutr Diet doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.01.026

Eicher-Miller HA, Fulgoni VL, Keast DR. Contributions of processed foods to dietary intake in the US from 2003-2008: A Report of the Food and Nutrition Science Solutions Joint Task Force of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Society for Nutrition, Institute of Food Technologists, and International Food Information Council. 2012 J Nutr doi: 10.2945/jn.112.164442

Fulgoni VL, Keast DR, Bailey RL, Dwyer J. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: Where do Americans get their nutrients? 2011 J Nutr doi: 10.3945/jn.111.142257

Hopkins SM, Gibney MJ, Nugent AP, McNulty H, Molloy Am, Scott JM, Flynn A, Strain JJ, Ward M, Walton J, McNulty BA. Impact of voluntary fortification and supplement use on dietary intakes and biomarker status of folate and vitamin B12 in Irish adults. 2015 Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.107151

Black LJ, Walton J, Flynn A, Kiely M. Adequacy of vitamin D intakes in children and teenagers from the base diet, fortified foods and supplements. 2014 Public Health Nutr doi: 10.1017/S1368980013000359