A wide variety of nutritious foods are available in the United States. However, many Americans do not eat the array of foods that will provide all needed nutrients while staying within calorie needs. In the United States, intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, milk and milk products,57 and oils are lower than recommended. As a result, dietary intakes of several nutrients—potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D—are low enough to be of public health concern for both adults and children. Several other nutrients also are of concern for specific population groups, such as folic acid for women who are capable of becoming pregnant.
This chapter describes food choices that should be emphasized to help Americans close nutrient gaps and move toward healthful eating patterns.
Recommendations are based on evidence that consuming these foods within the context of an overall healthy eating pattern is associated with a health benefit or meeting nutrient needs. Guidance on food choices for a healthy eating pattern generally groups foods based on commonalities in nutrients provided and how the foods are viewed and used by consumers. The following recommendations provide advice about making choices from all food groups while balancing calorie needs.
- Individuals should meet the following recommendations as part of a healthy eating pattern and while staying within their calorie needs.
- Increase vegetable and fruit intake.
- Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green and red and orange vegetables and beans and peas.
- Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains.
- Increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages.58
- Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
- Increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry.
- Replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories and/or are sources of oils.
- Use oils to replace solid fats where possible.
- Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products.