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2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines: USDA, HHS highlight importance of lean meat in new guidelines

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On Dec. 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the 2020-25 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), a set of science-based recommendations on what to eat and drink to promote health, reduce risk of chronic disease and meet nutrient needs.

USDA and HHS release the guidelines every five years, and for the first time, the two organizations offered guidance for individuals in different stages of life including advice for children and pregnant and lactating women.

Additionally, despite a growing market of meat and dairy alternatives, USDA and HHS recognized the importance of lean meat and dairy in a healthy lifestyle.

Through every stage of life

In the 2020-25 DGAs, themed “Make every bite count,” USDA and HHS focus on four key recommendations. 

The first of these four key recommendations, and one of the most notable changes added to the 2020-25 DGAs, is to follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.

According to USDA and HHS, “Be it infancy, toddlerhood, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy, lactation or older adulthood, it is never too early or too late to eat healthfully.”

Within this first recommendation, USDA and HHS provided suggestions regarding children and potentially allergenic foods for the first time. They note infant and young children should be introduced to potentially allergenic foods, such as egg, tree nut, shellfish and soy products, with other complementary foods.

 The guidelines further note introducing foods containing peanuts in the first year of life reduces the risk of children developing an allergy later on, and there is no evidence showing delaying the introduction of allergenic foods can help prevent allergies.  

The 2020-25 DGAs are also the first to include specific recommendations for pregnant and lactating women, including daily calorie intake based on pregnancy stage and details on what nutrients or vitamin intakes may need to increase.

Customize and enjoy

The second focus centers around customizing and enjoying nutrient dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions and budgetary considerations. 

“A healthy dietary pattern can benefit all individuals regardless of age, race, ethnicity or current health status,” states USDA and HHS. “The DGAs provide a framework intended to be customized to individual needs and preferences as well as the foodways of the diverse cultures in the U.S.”

Nutrient dense foods

Third, the guidelines focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient dense food and beverages, while staying within calorie limits.

USDA and HHS note the underlying goal of the DGAs is nutritional needs should be met from nutrient-dense foods and beverages, which provide vitamins, minerals and other healthy components while simultaneously containing little to no added sugars, saturated fat and sodium.

The USDA and HHS recommend eating all food groups in recommended amounts and within dietary limits. This includes vegetables of all types, fruits, especially whole fruits, oils such as vegetable oil and oils in foods and grains, at least half of which are whole grains.

In addition, the guidelines include dairy, lean meats, poultry, eggs and other protein-rich foods, which comes as a victory to those in the protein and dairy industries after a year of growing demand for dairy-free products and meat alternatives.

“We are thrilled with the updated DGAs released by the federal government,” states Danielle Beck, senior executive director of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association  “The guidelines continue to recognize the important role lean meats play in a healthy lifestyle.”

“There are new recommendations for birth to 24 months, the first time these guidelines have ever provided dietary recommendations for this age range, and these recommendations really favor beef,” Beck adds. “They recognize animal sourced foods such as beef are really a fundamental food for healthy growth in the early years.”

A few limitations

The fourth and final key recommendation outlined in the DGAs is limiting foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat and sodium as well as limiting alcoholic beverages. 

“At every life stage, meeting food group recommendations, even with nutrient dense choices, requires most of a person’s daily calorie needs and sodium limits,” states USDA and HHS. “A healthy dietary pattern doesn’t have much room for extra added sugars, saturated fat or sodium or for alcoholic beverages.”

With this said, they also note a small amount of added sugars, saturated fats or sodium may be added to nutrient-dense foods and beverages to help meet food group recommendations, but foods and beverages high in them should be limited.

Information in this article was compiled from the 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which can be found at Hannah Bugas is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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