Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025—the 411 for Retail Dietitians

Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025—the 411 for Retail Dietitians

April 24, 2019

By Shelley Maniscalco, MPH, RD, Nutrition on Demand

It’s that time again—the development of the next Dietary Guidelines for Americans!  These guidelines have been established every 5 years, since 1980, and serve as the Federal policy guiding everything from nutrition education to benefits for SNAP and WIC recipients.  It is the formal document, intended to be used by policymakers and practitioners alike, to guide the implementation of nutrition programming nationally and locally.  

How the Dietary Guidelines are developed

The overall process, led by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) and HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), is very linear:  

  • A Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), comprised of experts in specific areas identified as being critical in examining the current state of nutrition science, is established. 
  • The DGAC examines the data via three main inputs:  1) topic-specific systematic reviews; 2) data analysis (e.g., current intake); and 3) food pattern modeling. 
  • The DGAC holds regular public meetings to deliberate.   
  • The DGAC submits its scientific report, complete with recommendations based on the strength of the scientific evidence and future research needs, to the Federal agencies.  
  • The agencies assemble a multi-disciplinary team to write the policy, based on the DGAC report.
  • The Secretaries of USDA and HHS publicly release the Dietary Guidelines for Americans policy document.  

What’s new in 2020?

The current edition is an evolution of previous Guidelines, both in process and content, with the aim of making it as rigorous, transparent, and inclusive as possible. Here are just a few examples of what’s different this time:

  1. Expanded scope to address infants from birth to 2 years of age, as well as in-depth coverage of nutrition in pregnancy and lactation.  
  2. Research topics and questions developed and published at the outset, with public input. 
  3. Meeting schedule announced up front.
  4. Open public comment period throughout. 

Building on the 2015 Guidelines, the newest edition will focus on achieving the most healthful dietary patterns, based on food preferences and audience segment.  Key topics examined in the 2020 DGAC will include weight management, neurocognitive health, complementary foods in infants, and sarcopenia in older adults.  

How retail RDs can get involved 

As noted, the Guidelines are intended for a professional audience to utilize in outreach to consumers.  Here are some ways retail RDs can engage in the process throughout:

Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee 2020 Meeting Schedule

*opportunity for oral testimony

About the Author: Shelley Maniscalco, MPH, RD leads Nutrition On Demand, a boutique consulting firm located in Washington, DC.  Nutrition On Demand specializes in providing strategy and communications support for a variety of organizations, as needed, “on demand”.  Our team brings decades of Dietary Guidelines, internal and external to the government and provides monitoring and engagement services for the 2020 Guidelines and beyond.  For more information, visit: