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Projects Related to the Dietary Guidelines

A variety of federal and non-federal sources relate to the Dietary Guidelines. Here are some examples of key projects developed outside of the Dietary Guidelines process that are relevant to the Dietary Guidelines.

Dietary Reference Intakes

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The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) provide reference values for vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that: 1) indicate daily intake amounts that meet the needs of most healthy people, and 2) set intake levels not to exceed to avoid harm.

These reference values provide an important source of evidence for the Dietary Guidelines by helping us understand if the population is meeting or exceeding nutrient needs through the foods and beverages consumed.

In addition, the USDA Food Patterns included in the Dietary Guidelines aim to meet DRI. In this way, the Dietary Guidelines use the DRI to make food-based recommendations that helps Americans to meet their nutrient needs.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (National Academies) establishes DRI for the United States and Canada. Although the U.S. and Canadian governments work together to determine which DRI need to be updated and to sponsor the DRI development process, this process is separate from the Dietary Guidelines. The DRI do not serve as federal policy.  

Healthy Eating Index

Healthy Eating Index banner with images of food around it

The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) is a tool designed to evaluate how well a set of food, such as the foods commonly consumed by Americans, aligns with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The HEI-2015 aligns with the key recommendations from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The HEI allows for the tracking dietary quality over time and can be used to answer important questions about diet quality and health outcomes in the U.S.

National Academies Study of the Process Used to Establish the Dietary Guidelines

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 In 2016, Congress directed the Secretary of Agriculture to engage the National Academies to conduct a comprehensive study of the process used to establish the Dietary Guidelines. The National Academies’ study findings are available on its website. The study produced two reports, one on the process for selecting the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and another on the other aspects of the Dietary Guidelines development process.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have carefully considered the National Academies’ reports and continue to evolve the process to develop the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines to ensure it is transparent and science-based.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

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 HHS develops the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, a set of guidelines designed to help people improve their health through physical activity. The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans includes recommendations for Americans ages 3 years and over — including people at increased risk of chronic disease — and provides evidence-based advice on how physical activity can help promote health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. 

It is an essential resource for health professionals and policy makers and is used to inform federal physical activity programs and initiatives.

Recognizing the importance of physical activity to promote health and help prevent chronic disease, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that Americans of all ages meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.