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Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Living

Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 cover. Block of text surrounded by collage of healthy meals and fruits and vegetables.

Want to know what to eat to stay healthy and active? Follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans!  

Following the key recommendations for good nutrition and physical activity will help you and your family  stay healthy and fit, help you get the nutrients you need each day, and help you make sensible choices that reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases. Check out the information below to find out how simple it can be to eat better and live better.

Follow a Healthy Eating Pattern 

All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Focus on Variety, Nutrient Density, and Amount

To meet nutrient needs, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts. 

  • Vegetables - Choose a variety of vegetables – dark green, red and orange, beans and peas, are just a few examples. 
  • Fruit - Include fruit, especially whole fruits and make sure at least half the intake of grains are whole grains. 
  • Dairy - A healthy eating pattern includes fat-free or low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages. 
  • Protein - Don’t forget a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, and soy products. 
  • Fats - Healthy fats include avocados and healthy oils such as canola and olive. Healthy fats are a major source of essential fatty acids and Vitamin E but are also a concentrated sourced of calories. A healthy eating pattern should limit fats to no more than 27 grams (or about 5 teaspoons) per day.

Customize your eating plan

More detailed information can be found by creating a MyPlate Plan. Enter  the appropriate information for age, sex, and physical activity level and create a customized healthy eating pattern!

Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium

Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns. 

 Key Dietary Recommendations

  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.
  • Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium.
  • If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation-up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men-and only by adults of legal drinking age. 

Shift to Healthier Food and Beverage Choices

Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain. 

Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults

In addition to consuming a healthy eating pattern, regular physical activity is one of the most important things Arkansans can do to improve their health.  Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.  Additionally muscle-strengthening exercises should be performed at least two days per week.  Engage in regular physical activity in a variety of ways throughout the day by choosing activities that you enjoy.

For a full report, see the USDA Publication Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 Eighth Edition.


MyPlate icon with green placemat: 1/4 of plate shaded red to represent fruits, 1/4 of plate shaded green to represent vegetables, 1/4 of plate shaded purple to represent protein, 1/4 of plate shaded brown to represent grains, and one blue cup symbolizing dairy

Before you eat, think about what goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl. Foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein foods contain the nutrients you need without too many calories. Try some of these options when building your next meal. 

You may also want to download this helpful guide and use it when planning and preparing your meals. Let's Eat for the Health of It

Grocery bag with scale dial appearing on front full of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk Calorie balance over time is the key to weight management. In order to balance your calories, you need to know how many calories are right for you.
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A large tray of fried onion rings, French fries, catsup, and greasy cheese burgers Consuming certain foods and food components in excessive amounts may increase your risk of chronic diseases. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommends reducing consumption of sodium, solid fats, added sugars, and refined grains. Follow the link below to find out why and how.
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Additional Resource:
Reducing Sugar May Be Easier Thank You Think

A fridge full of low-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole-grain products Nutrient-dense foods are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans and peas (legumes), and nuts and seeds that are prepared without added solid fats, sugars, starches and sodium. Find out how to follow these recommendations as part of a healthy eating pattern while staying within your calorie needs.
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Wire handheld grocery basket with items from each of the 5 food groups and a large calculatorCooking food from scratch rather than relying on packaged foods, and eating at home more often saves money and time. It also allows you to control the ingredients you are consuming. This guide can serve as a tool for you to use when planning and shopping for meals.

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