University of Massachusetts Amherst

It's MORE Than A Meal


Nutrition Basics

the 2005 dietary guidelines


The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide science-based advice to promote health. They were first published in 1980 by the U.S. government, and are revised every five years to reflect the latest scientific knowledge. The 2005 edition stresses the role of diet and physical activity in promoting health and reducing the risk for obesity and chronic diseases (such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis).

The Dietary Guidelines translate nutrition knowledge into advice for a general eating pattern. The 2005 edition provides a set of messages that encourage most Americans to eat fewer calories, be more active, and make wiser food choices.

Basic Messages

Adequate Nutrients within Calorie Needs

Key recommendations

  • Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within the basic food groups. Aim for foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.
  • Adopt a balanced eating pattern such as the USDA Pyramid.

Additional advice for older adults

  • Consume extra vitamin B12 from fortified foods or supplements.
  • Consume extra vitamin D from fortified foods or supplements.

Weight Management

Key recommendations

  • To maintain body weight in a healthy range, balance the calories from foods and beverages with the calories used in exercise and daily activities.
  • To prevent gradual weight gain as you get older, make small decreases in how much food you eat (“calories in”) and increase physical activity (“calories out”).

Additional advice for overweight adults

  • Aim for a slow, steady weight loss by eating fewer calories while eating enough nutrients and increasing physical activity.
  • Before starting a weight-loss program, consult a healthcare provider to manage other health conditions.

Physical Activity

Key recommendations

  • Engage in physical activity to promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight.
  • Include cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility, and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.

Additional advice for older adults

  • If you are able to do so, participate in regular physical activity to reduce some of the effects of aging. For example, strengthening muscles and improving balance can reduce falls and injuries.

Food Groups to Encourage

Key recommendations

  • Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables while staying within calorie needs.
  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. Select from all 5 vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables) several times each week.
  • Whole grains should make up at least half of the grains eaten.
  • Consume 3 cups each day of fat-free milk or equivalent milk products.


Key recommendations

  • Consume less than 10% of daily calories from saturated fats.
Daily calories
Saturated fats
(up to 10% of calories)
Up to 18 grams
Up to 20 grams
Up to 25 grams
    • Keep total fat intake in the range of 20% to 35% of calories.
    • Most fats should come from foods such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils that are good sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
    • Choose meat, poultry, and milk products that are lean, low-fat, or fat-free.
    • Consume as few trans fats as possible. Trans fats are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats.
    • Consume less than 300 milligrams per day of cholesterol.


Key recommendations

  • Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains often.
  • Choose foods and beverages with few added sugars or caloric sweeteners.
  • Reduce the risk for dental cavities by practicing good oral hygiene.

Additional advice for older adults  

  • Consume foods rich in dietary fiber to help prevent constipation.

Sodium and Potassium

Key recommendations

  • Consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium (about 1 teaspoon of salt) per day. This includes the sodium already in foods, plus any salt added at the table.
  • Choose and prepare foods with little salt.
  • Consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

Additional advice for older adults and people with high blood pressure

  • Consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
  • Consume at least 4,700 mg of potassium per day from food sources.

Alcoholic Beverages

Key recommendations

  • Those who drink alcoholic beverages should limit intake to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
  • Alcoholic beverages should be avoided by people who abuse alcohol, take medications that can interact with alcohol, have certain medical conditions, or do activities that require attention, skill, or coordination (such as driving or operating machinery).

Food Safety

Key recommendations

  • Clean hands and food contact surfaces.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables before eating them.
  • Don’t wash or rinse meat and poultry.
  • Separate raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook foods to a safe temperature to kill microorganisms.
  • Chill (refrigerate) perishable food promptly and defrost foods properly.

Additional advice for older adults

  • Older adults have a risk of developing potentially life-threatening illnesses caused by bacteria. To decrease the risk, avoid unpasteurized milk; raw or undercooked eggs, meat, poultry, or fish; unpasteurized juices; and raw sprouts. Only eat hot dogs that have been heated to steaming hot.

Back to Top

Developed for the Massachusetts Department of Education Child and Adult Care Food Program by the University of Massachusetts Extension Nutrition Education Program. Permission is hereby granted by the Massachusetts Department of Education to copy any or all parts of this document for non-commercial educational purposes. The Massachusetts Department of Education, an Affirmative Action employer, is committed to ensuring that all of its programs and facilities are accessible to all members of the public. We do not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.