September 30, 2023


Qualified food specialists

Monday Motivator: Healthy eating is key at every age

3 min read

Every five years the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services release the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The 2020-2025 edition is the first edition to ever provide guidance by stages of life — from birth to older adults. Healthy eating is important at every stage of life and it’s never too late or too early to eat healthy food options.

The guidelines state:

  • For about the first six months of life, exclusively feed infants human milk. Continue to feed infants human milk through at least the first year of life, and longer if desired. Feed infants iron-fortified infant formula during the first year of life when human milk is unavailable. Provide infants with supplemental vitamin D beginning soon after birth.

  • At about 6 months, introduce infants to nutrient-dense complementary foods. Introduce infants to potentially allergenic foods along with other complementary foods. Encourage infants and toddlers to consume a variety of foods from all food groups. Include foods rich in iron and zinc, particularly for infants fed human milk.

  • From 12 months through older adulthood, follow a healthy dietary pattern across the lifespan to meet nutrient needs, help achieve a healthy body weight, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

The 2020-2025 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is the first edition to ever provide guidance by stages of life — from birth to older adults. Submitted photo

The 2020-2025 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is the first edition to ever provide guidance by stages of life — from birth to older adults. Submitted photo

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An underlying premise of the Dietary Guidelines is that nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods and beverages — specifically, nutrient-dense foods and beverages. Nutrient-dense foods provide vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting components and have no or little added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. A healthy dietary pattern consists of nutrient-dense forms of foods and beverages across all food groups, in recommended amounts, and within calorie limits.

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The core elements that make up a healthy dietary pattern include:

  • Vegetables of all types — dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables,

  • Fruits, especially whole fruit,

  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grain,

  • Dairy, including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, and/or lactose-free versions and fortified soy beverages and yogurt as alternatives,

  • Protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products,

  • Oils, including vegetable oils and oils in food, such as seafood and nuts,

  • Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.

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At every life stage, meeting food group recommendations — even with nutrient-dense choices — requires most of a person’s daily calorie needs and sodium limits. A healthy dietary pattern doesn’t have much room for extra added sugars, saturated fat, or sodium — or for alcoholic beverages. A small amount of added sugars, saturated fat, or sodium can be added to nutrient-dense foods and beverages to help meet food group recommendations, but foods and beverages high in these components should be limited.

Following the Dietary Guidelines can improve Americans’ Health by lowering the risk of heart disease, lowering risk of Type 2 diabetes, lowering the risk of cancer, lowering the risk of obesity and hip fractures. For more information visit

For most individuals, no matter their age or health status, achieving a healthy dietary pattern will require changes in food and beverage choices. Some of these changes can be accomplished by making simple substitutions, while others will require greater effort to accomplish. Visit or for healthy eating resources that may be helpful in lifestyle change or sign up for a free National Diabetes Prevention Program class by visiting

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