9 Things to Know About the New U.S. Dietary Guidelines

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Published March, 2021

2020-2025 U.S. Dietary Guidelines 

Every five years, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) comes out with their U.S. Dietary Guidelines that provide recommendations intended to promote healthy dietary patterns. While the main audience for these guidelines are nutrition policy makers and health professionals, they are relevant to you as you determine the foods   you consume. 

If you’re living – and eating – gluten-free, some of the guideline findings may be more relevant to you. For example, gluten-free diets may not provide you with enough fiber or too much sugar and fat. Both of these issues could also apply to people who are not on gluten-free diets. 

Let’s take a look at some key findings and recommendations in the recently issued Guidelines 

REMEMBER: GIG provides educational information to people living gluten-free. With any change in diet, consult your healthcare provider. 

Key Findings

1. You are not alone if you struggle to follow the Guidelines.

Unfortunately, most Americans do not follow theDietary Guidelines as part of their day-to-day eating habits.The average American diet scores a 59 out of 100 on the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), which measures how closely a diet aligns with the Dietary Guidelines. 

Research shows that higher HEI scores can improve your health. Here are some places most people are falling short (or overdoing it): 

How can you improve your eating habits? Check out Healthy Gluten-Free Eating Guidelines and Heart Healthy Gluten-Free Diet. 

2. You might be missing protein from protein “sub-groups.”

The Dietary Guidelines refers to protein foods as a broad group of foods that come from both animal and plant sources. The Guidelines also refer to several protein subgroups: meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; and nuts, seeds, and soy products. Beans, peas, and lentils can be considered a part of both the protein foods group and the vegetable group.  

While intakes of protein foods are close to recommended amounts, many Americans do not meet recommendations for specific protein subgroups. If you can, vary up your protein intake by selecting from the seafood subgroup and the beans, peas, and lentils subgroup more often to help meet the recommendations. 

3. You might not be eating enough whole grains.

Most Americans meet recommendations for total grain intakes, although 98 percent fall below recommendations for whole grains. A whole grain is a grain that contains all three of the main parts of the grain (endosperm, bran, and germ). A whole grain has not been refined and stripped of fiber and important nutrients. Read our Educational Bulletin on Gluten-Free Whole Grains.    

4. You could be lacking in fiber.

Dietary patterns that do not meet recommended intakes of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contribute to low intakes of dietary fiber. More than 90 percent of women and 97 percent of men do not meet recommended intakes for dietary fiber. This lack of fiber could be explained by the fact that 85 percent of adults don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables, or whole grains all natural and healthy sources of fiber. Read Adding Fiber to Your Gluten-Free Diet for some helpful tips. 

Key recommendations:

5. Make every bite count.

Be more aware of what is in everything you eat and drink. Pick one or two ways you can make positive changes. Focus on nutrient-dense foods and beverages. Consume fewer foods and drinks that have added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Stay within recommended calorie limits for your age, gender, weight, height, and level of physical activity.  

6. Eat less sugar.

You should limit added sugars to less than 10% of your daily calorie intakePay attention to the sugar content in the gluten-free packaged foods you’re purchasing, particularly baked goods, as manufacturers tend to add extra sugar – and fat – to add texture and flavor when working without wheat flour.  

Instead of foods with added sugars, the Guidelines suggest trying canned fruit packed in 100% juice, plain yogurt with fresh fruit, and unsweetened applesauce. For drinks, limit soda, lemonade, sports drinks, and fruit juice. Try chilled, plain water or sparkling water with a squeeze of fruit for a splash of flavor insteadThis guideline applies to anyone aged 2 and older. Avoid added sugars for infants and toddlers. 

7. Watch that saturated fat.

You should limit the amount of saturated fats you consume to less than 10% of the calories you take in per day. Some examples of sources of saturated fat include butter, lard, coconut oil and palm oil, cheese, and fatty cuts of meat, sausages, bacon, and cured meats. Instead, try nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like tuna, salmon, trout, and mackerelStart limiting saturated fats at age 2. 

8. Reduce your sodium (salt) intake.

Limit sodium intake to less than 2,300mg per day. For children younger than 14, this intake should be even less. Check the Nutrition Facts label and choose foods with a lower percent (%) Daily Value (DV) for sodium such as fresh fruits and vegetablesYou’ll likely consume more sodium in packaged foods compared with what you make yourself. If you cook at home, you can limit sodium by flavoring foods with herbs, spices, lemon, lime, and vinegar and avoid salt or seasonings high in sodium. 

9. Limit alcoholic beverages, if you drink them.

Alcoholic beverages are not recommended and are not a component of the USDA Dietary Patterns. The Guidelines do not recommend that people who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason. If you are consuming alcohol, experts say intake should be limited to two drinks or less a day for men and one drink or less a day for women. 



Check out the USDA’s brochure designed to help consumers follow the GuidelinesRemember to keep all your food selections gluten-free. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/DGA_2020-2025_StartSimple_withMyPlate_English_color.pdf  


Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf 

Disclaimer: The information on this website is for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare team when considering this information.  

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