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Healthy Eating Patterns

Healthy eating patterns encompass all food and beverage choices over time, providing an adaptable and personalized framework.

Healthy eating patterns encompass all food and beverage choices over time, providing an adaptable, personalized framework tailored to preferences, culture, traditions, and budget. Choose a variety of nutrient-rich foods from the food groups—Dairy; Vegetables; Fruits; Grains; Protein—to build healthy eating patterns that aid in optimal growth and development and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

What is the basis of healthy eating recommendations?

The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans serves as the evidence-based foundation for nutrition recommendations for the public. Its main purpose is to inform the development of federal food, nutrition, and health policies and programs. The Dietary Guidelines, which is updated every 5 years to reflect advancements in scientific knowledge, is a critical tool for professionals to help Americans make healthy choices in their daily lives to help prevent chronic disease and enjoy a healthy diet.

2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DietaryGuidelines.gov)

How do people’s eating habits compare to the recommendations?

Most children and their families fall short of eating the recommended dairy, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The nutrients in these foods are important for growth and development in children, as well as for reducing the risk of health issues like diabetes in children and adults. These nutrients are of public health concern due to under-consumption: vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and fiber.

Dietary Guidelines (DietaryGuidelines.gov)

How does a food grouping system support nutrition education?

A food grouping system is a tool that makes detailed dietary recommendations simple. MyPlate is a visual symbol of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to help remind people to build healthy eating patterns across all food groups. Foods that have similar nutrients are grouped together. Each food group offers unique benefits that the other groups may not provide. Everything children and adults eat and drink matters—foods from all food groups are needed to form the foundation of healthy eating patterns.

MyPlate (MyPlate.gov)

Which foods are frequently identified in the wrong food group?

When exploring the food grouping system, reference Commonly Miscategorized Foods.

Are vegetarian diets appropriate for children?

Generally, vegetarian diets that include some animal foods (particularly dairy foods and/or eggs) can meet the needs of growing children if the recommended amounts for each food group are consumed. If choosing a vegan diet, or one that is restricted to only plant foods and contains no animal foods, parents should consult with a physician or a registered dietitian to ensure that children get enough calories and essential nutrients needed for growth and development.

How can some children make plans to eat healthier when they don’t have access to enough food?

Hunger is a major health concern. Children should be encouraged to identify and eat foods that are available to them. Federally-assisted meal programs such as School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program are excellent opportunities for them to plan and make nutritious selections at low or no cost. Providing nutrition education and support to parents and caregivers is another way to make healthy eating easier for families and make nutritious foods more accessible.

School Meals (FNS.USDA.gov)

How do the school meal programs impact children’s diets and health?

Research shows that school meal programs support student health and academics. Children who eat the National School Lunch Program are more likely to eat a greater variety of foods, providing nutrients that are often missing from children’s diets. Nearly 75 percent of children do not eat enough dairy, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.1 School lunches are designed to contribute one-third of a child’s daily nutrient needs. School breakfast contributes 20–25 percent of a child’s daily needs.

School Lunch: A Smart and Easy Choice (HealthyEating.org)


  1. US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Ed. 2015. Available at: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/