Scientific Research Department

Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA)

What are the Dietary Guidelines?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) are updated every 5 years to reflect the current body of nutrition science and provide advice on what to eat and drink to promote health and reduce risk of chronic disease. The DGA are the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy and provides evidence-based dietary guidance to be used by policymakers, health professionals and, ultimately, consumers and serves as the standard for programs such as the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The latest DGA, released Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, recommends that primary beverages either be calorie free – especially water – or contribute beneficial nutrients, such as fat-free and low-fat milk and 100% fruit juice.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans Infographic: What’s the Difference Between the Scientific Advisory Committee Report and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

FDOC’s Scientific Research Department Engages with the DGAs

FDOC’s Scientific Research Department (SRD) plays an active role in the DGA process leading up to each release. For the latest release of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the SRD team closely monitored the development of the Guidelines for over three years and virtually attended all five Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) public meetings, as well as the report summary meeting just prior the release of the DGAC’s final report. The FDOC also submitted comments during the DGA process to highlight and reinforce to the DGA Committee and USDA/HHS newly published research related to the benefits and nutrient density of 100% orange juice and advocate for recognition in the DGA of bioactive compounds (e.g., hesperidin in orange juice) contributed by 100% fruit juice. FDOC previously reported on the release of the DGAC report, the scientific review document that underpins the DGA policy document. Then later reported on the release of the DGA policy document on December 29, 2020.

Comment Letters from FDOC’s Scientific Research Department:

The 2020-2025 DGA Support Inclusion of 100% Juice in a Healthy Diet

Released on December 29, 2020, the 2020-2025 DGA continue to reinforce that nutrient-dense 100% fruit juices, such as orange juice, count as a fruit serving and include 100% fruit juice as a part of a healthy dietary pattern. The guidelines additionally support the incorporation of beverages such as 100% orange juice, which provides key nutrients and hydration, into the daily diets of children and adults. The DGA focus heavily on choosing nutrient-dense foods and beverages as part of a healthy dietary pattern and reducing the intake of added sugars. 100% orange juice is more nutrient-dense than other commonly consumed 100% fruit juices1 and is an excellent choice to help children and adults meet daily nutrient needs and food group recommendations.

Key statements and recommendations in the DGA specifically regarding the role of 100% fruit juice in the diet include:

  • At least half of the recommended amount of fruit should come from whole fruit, rather than 100% juice. When juices are consumed, they should be 100% juice and always pasteurized or 100% juice diluted with water (without added sugars).
  • Beverages that contain no added sugars should be the primary choice for children and adolescents. These include water and unsweetened fat-free or low-fat milk—including low-lactose or lactose free options or fortified soy beverage—and 100% juice within recommended amounts.
  • Drinks labeled as “fruit drinks” or “fruit-flavored drinks” are not the same as 100% fruit juice and contain added sugars. These beverages displace nutrient-dense beverages and foods in the diet of young children.
  • Beverages with added sugars, including “fruit drinks,” can be replaced with nutrient-dense options such as 100% juice to help meet fruit group recommendations.
  • In addition to water, older adults should choose unsweetened beverages such as 100% fruit or vegetable juice and low-fat or fat-free milk or fortified soy beverage to support fluid intake to prevent dehydration while helping to achieve food group recommendations.
  • Although 100% fruit juice can be part of a healthy dietary pattern, it is lower in dietary fiber than whole fruit.
  • 100% fruit or vegetable juices should not be given to infants. In the second year of life, most fruit intake should come from eating whole fruit. If 100% fruit juice is provided, up to 4 ounces per day can fit in a healthy dietary pattern. Juices that contain added sugars should be avoided.

Additionally, this latest release expands dietary guidance, for the first time including recommended healthy dietary patterns for infants and toddlers as well as pregnant and lactating women. The USDA’s MyPlate website offers information and materials to help consumers and health professionals put the DGA recommendations into practice.

The theme for this edition of the DGA is “Make Every Bite Count” and includes four overarching guidelines: 

  • Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.
  • Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.
  • Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages from five food groups – vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and fortified soy alternatives, and proteins – and stay within calorie limits.
  • Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.

Based on sound science and input from the public and government agencies, the 2020-2025 DGA continue to recognize 100% fruit juices, such as orange juice, as nutrient-dense beverages that can be part of a healthy diet.