Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide advice on the foods and beverages that will help individuals develop a healthy diet, meet nutrition needs and prevent diet-related diseases. The guidelines also set the standards for federal feeding programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, and nutrition education messages.

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are required to review and update the guidelines every five years, and the 2020-2025 guidelines were released in December 2020.

Read more about dairy products' nutritional and health benefits on our Dairy Nourishes webpage, and find out more about the new recommendations included in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans below.

Our Position

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans affirm the unrivaled contribution made by dairy foods and remind Americans that a healthy diet includes three daily servings of low-fat and fat-free dairy.

Throughout the development of the new Dietary Guidelines, IDFA worked with the advisory committee and the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to maintain the number of servings and expand choices to include higher fat levels. IDFA stressed the importance of keeping dairy as a separate and essential food group and asked the advisory committee, USDA, and HHS to consider nutrient density when assessing dairy products with added sugars. In addition, IDFA called for research on feeding yogurt to infants starting at 6 months of age, which would align with other USDA program regulations.

Dairy Detractors

The federal government also heard from individuals and groups who want recommendations for plant-based diets with little to no dairy included in the guidelines. They cited concerns with animal welfare, sustainability and the environment, among other issues, but their comments aren’t based in science. IDFA will continue to share the large and growing body of scientific evidence that shows dairy foods offer unparalleled health and nutrition benefits to people of all ages.

“Dairy products play an important role in the diet of children… In fact, milk is the leading food source of three of the four nutrients of public health concern (calcium, vitamin D and potassium) in the diet of American children 2-18 years.”

American Academy of Pediatrics

Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) appointed 20 nationally recognized experts to serve on the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC). Barbara Schneeman, Ph.D., served as chair of the DGAC, and Ron Kleinman, M.D., served as vice chair. Schneeman is a professor emerita at the University of California-Davis in the food science, technology and nutrition unit. Kleinman heads the department of pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital and is a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Read more for a full list of committee members. 

Most of 2019 was devoted to collecting public comments as the advisory committee began gathering and reviewing extensive scientific literature. IDFA presented oral comments at the DGAC committee meeting in January 2020, which you can view here. IDFA also submitted written comments—you can view the comments here—with a focus on keeping three daily servings of dairy and a separate dairy category in recommended eating patterns.

In July 2020, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its final scientific report to USDA and HHS, affirming dairy products should maintain a central, important role in federal nutrition recommendations for people beginning at a very early age. In addition to maintaining three servings of dairy per day, the committee found strong evidence pointing to positive health outcomes from dairy foods. In fact, a diet including low-fat and fat-free dairy, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables is considered the ideal, healthy dietary pattern for all ages.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

In December 2020, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) released the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans after reviewing the final scientific report of the 2020 DGAC and comments from the public. The agencies once again released guidelines that affirm the unparalleled health and nutrition benefits that dairy products provide to people of all ages:

  1. A diet including low-fat and fat-free dairy is part of the ideal, healthy dietary pattern along with whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
  2. The guidelines encourage most Americans to consume three servings of dairy per day. Dairy contains key nutrients that Americans should consume more of—also called “food components of public health concern”—including vitamin D, calcium, and potassium.
  3. Dairy remains a separate, distinct food group in recognition of its unrivaled health and nutrition benefits to people of all ages.
  4. Small amounts of some foods including dairy foods are recommended for children beginning at 6-12 months of age and continuing thereafter as part of new recommendations for toddlers. In the second year of life, when calcium requirements increase, dairy products including milk, yogurt, and cheese provide a good source of calcium. The recommendations call for inclusion of higher fat versions of dairy, including whole milk, for toddlers ages 12 through 23 months, which can also help meet calcium, vitamin D and protein needs.
  5. The guidelines contain messages and data useful to combatting misinformation related to dairy. The guidelines state:  “Consistent evidence demonstrates that a healthy dietary pattern [including low-fat and fat-free dairy] is associated with beneficial outcomes for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, bone health, and certain types of cancer (breast and colorectal).” Additionally, a healthy eating pattern for children from birth through 24 months—which includes the introduction of some dairy after 6 months—helps to “lower risk of asthma” for children.

The Dietary Guidelines rely on the best science to advise Americans on building a wholesome, nutritious diet containing a range of foods and beverages. They are developed after years of review of the latest science on health and nutrition by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), a panel of twenty leading dieticians physicians and public health experts, and officials at USDA and HHS.

IDFA Staff Experts

Michelle Matto

Principal AM Food & Nutrition

Joseph Scimeca

Senior Vice President, Regulatory & Scientific Affairs