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Since 1980, the U.S. government has published the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, updating them every 5 years. These guidelines are the cornerstone of Federal nutrition policy and nutrition education efforts.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released in December 2020 and emphasizes the importance of a healthy dietary pattern at all stages of life, providing recommendations from infancy to older adulthood. The new Guidelines suggest we “make every bite count” by following these guidelines:

  1. Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.
  2. Customize and enjoy food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.
  3. Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient dense foods and beverages and stay within calorie limits.
  4. Limit foods and beverage higher in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.

More specifically to added sugars, the guidelines say, “A healthy dietary pattern limits added sugars to less than 10% of total calories per day.”1 This is equal to 50 grams or 200 calories based on a 2000-calorie diet. The recommendation is based on food pattern modeling (a tool used to figure out how to meet all of your food group recommendations within calorie needs), and the 10% target is an attempt to help individuals move toward healthy eating patterns while staying within calorie needs.

“Most of the calories a person needs to eat each day-around 85 percent – are needed to meet food group recommendations healthfully, in nutrient-dense forms. The remaining calories – around 15 percent – are calories available for other uses, included for added sugars or saturated fat beyond the small amounts found in nutrient-dense forms of foods and beverages within the pattern, to consumer more than the recommended amount of a food group, or for alcoholic beverages.”

In addition to providing a recommended limit for added sugars, the Dietary Guidelines also recognize the function of added sugars in foods, including improving palatability of nutrient-dense foods. “Added sugars can help with preservation; contribute to functional attributes such as viscosity, texture, body, color, and browning capability, and/or help improve the palatability of some nutrient-dense foods. In fact, the nutrient-dense choices included in the Healthy U.S.-Style Dietary Pattern are based on availability in the U.S. food supply and include 17-50 calories from added sugars, or 1.5-2 percent of total calories.”1




To access the full guidelines, visit dietaryguidelines.gov.


About the Author

Courtney Gaine, Ph.D., R.D., is the President and CEO for the Sugar Association in Washington, D.C. Prior to this appointment in January 2016, Dr. Gaine served as the Vice President of Scientific Affairs at the association. Dr. Gaine previously served as senior science program manager at the North American branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI North America), a public, nonprofit scientific foundation that advances the understanding and application of science related to the nutritional quality and safety of the food supply. Prior to ILSI, Dr. Gaine held positions of project director, nutrition and wellness, at the nonprofit organization Convergence and science manager at FoodMinds, a public relations firm. She began her career in academia as an assistant professor at East Carolina University. A native Washingtonian, Dr. Gaine obtained her Ph.D. in nutritional sciences and biochemistry and bachelor’s degree in dietetics from the University of Connecticut, where she was also a co-captain of the UConn women’s basketball team.

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