Learn more about how we define healthy eating and the considerations that drive our nutrition philosophy.
Healthy eating is a pattern of nutritious and wholesome food choices that people make over time. Healthy eating habits are built on a pattern of daily food and beverage choices that are tailored to individual preference, culture, tradition and budget. Cultivating healthy eating habits sets the foundation for healthy eating patterns, supporting the long-term health and well-being of children and families by promoting optimal growth and development and reduced risk of chronic diseases.
Overall diet quality matters more than calories or single nutrient amounts. For a high-quality diet, emphasis should be placed on consumption of nutrient-dense, wholesome foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed while reducing refined starches,
added sugars, processed meats and other highly processed foods. Foods that are high-quality and nutritious include fruit, vegetables, milk, cheese, yogurt, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, healthy fats and oils. When high-quality
foods are eaten together, their nutrients interact with one another in unique ways, providing health benefits greater than the sum of their parts, re-emphasizing the importance of a healthy eating pattern for nutrition as well as health-promoting
and protective benefits.
Eating patterns are increasingly being evaluated for their impact on both individual and planetary health. Sustainable nutrition is a topic with international importance. Countries around the world are faced with the challenge of addressing the triple burden of malnutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies while also preserving finite natural resources for future generations.
At its core, sustainable nutrition means ensuring wholesome, nutrient-dense foods are accessible, affordable and culturally relevant while also preserving finite environmental resources and supporting local communities. As countries around the world incorporate
sustainability into their food and nutrition guidelines, it is inevitable that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans will follow suit, striving to provide recommendations that support the health of both people and planet.
Conversation around healthy, sustainable eating patterns must address the unique nutritional needs of pregnant women and children, considering the impacts of food insecurity, malnutrition, obesity and educational achievement gaps on communities. In the United States and countries around the world, many children are overweight and undernourished, especially within vulnerable communities. As rates of childhood obesity and prediabetes continue to rise, the health of pregnant women and children must be prioritized to ensure they are supported in the present and for the success of future families and communities.
Early childhood provides a key opportunity to establish healthy dietary patterns, impacting growth and development in the short-term as well as setting the foundation for healthy eating habits later in life. Supporting nutrition education and federal
programs like school meals that provide students with direct access to nutritious and wholesome foods such as milk and dairy foods, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and high-quality plant and animal proteins are essential for children to reach their
For a variety of reasons, many Americans continue to consume inadequate amounts of dairy, vegetables, fruits and whole grains, resulting in nutrient gaps. These gaps can be closed by increasing the quality of the foods consumed, replacing highly processed foods with wholesome, nutrient-dense foods from both plant and animal sources. A balanced eating approach embraces the needs of individuals, the diversity of cultures and economies, and the sustainability of food sources while ensuring adequate nutrition for a growing population.
Nutrition research continues to demonstrate the benefits of dairy foods as an affordable and sustainable way to address the nutritional needs of a growing population. Milk and dairy foods play an integral role in supporting overall health, and the wide variety, availability and affordability of dairy foods makes them possible to include in any healthy eating pattern. Milk, cheese, yogurt and other fermented dairy foods provide essential nutrients that nourish and offer lifelong health benefits for children and families.