Sugar & the Diet

Dietary Guidelines

Current Recommendations

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend Americans limit added sugars to less than 10% of total calories per day. 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.

Since 1980, the U.S. government has published the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, updating them every 5 years. These guidelines provide “food-based recommendations to promote health, help prevent diet-related disease, and meet nutrient needs” and are the cornerstone of Federal nutrition policy and nutrition education efforts. As part of the development process, an Advisory Committee is appointed to review the evidence and provide a scientific report to the USDA and HHS who then develop the guidelines.1

Current Edition: 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Dietary Guidelines from Americans 2020-2025

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasizes the importance of a healthy dietary pattern as a whole, rather than focus on individual nutrients, foods, or food groups in isolation. It also highlights the importance of encouraging healthy dietary patterns at every life stage, providing recommendations from infancy to older adulthood. The authors recognize that “a healthy eating pattern is not a rigid prescription. Rather, the Guidelines are a customizable framework of core elements within which individuals make tailored and affordable choices that meet their personal, cultural, and traditional preferences.”2 To access the full guidelines, visit dietaryguidelines.gov.

What do the Dietary Guidelines for Americans say about sugar?

Each version of the guidelines has included a general recommendation for Americans to moderate their intake of sugars. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were the first to quantify moderation, recommending Americans limit added sugars to less than 10% of total calories per day (or 50 grams based on a 2000-calorie diet),3 and the 2020-2025 guidelines carried this recommendation forward.2 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. 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.”2

Dietary Guidelines for America 2020-2025A nutrient-dense diet, where most nutritional needs are met by 85% of the calories consumed, offers a small amount of leeway to add minimal amounts of added sugars or saturated fat to the diet. For example, one way to use remaining calories is to add small amounts of added sugars or saturated fat to some nutrient-dense foods to help make some foods more palatable while working towards meeting food group recommendations—for example, oatmeal with a small amount of brown sugar or vegetables prepared with small amounts of butter.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-20252

References:

 

  1. Most popular questions about the Dietary Guidelines
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov. Accessed January 14, 2021.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Accessed April 10, 2018.
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Nutrition Labeling

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