The Origin of U.S. Dietary Guidelines
Current U.S. dietary policies still reflect the basic design of the food guides from the early part of this century.
In 1894, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed the first food composition tables and dietary standards for Americans. In 1916, the first daily food guides appeared in USDA publications, consisting of five food groups: milk and meat, cereals, vegetables and fruits, fats and fat foods, and sugars and sugary foods. In 1917, dietary recommendations using these food groups were released in a government publication called “How to Select Foods.”
In 1933, family food plans specified the foods to be eaten each week to meet nutrient needs at various cost levels using 12 major food groups: milk; potatoes and sweet potatoes; dry beans, peas, and nuts; tomatoes and citrus fruits; leafy green and yellow vegetables; other vegetables and fruits; eggs; lean meat, poultry, and fish; flours and cereals; butter; other fats; and sugars.
In 1941, the first Recommended Dietary Allowances were released by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences, including recommendations for calories and nine nutrients. In 1942, the “Basic Seven” food guide was released by the USDA. The “Basic Seven” food groups were green and yellow vegetables; oranges, tomatoes, and grapefruit; potatoes and other vegetables and fruit; milk and milk products; meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dried peas and beans; bread, flour, and cereals; and butter and fortified margarine. This guide suggested alternate choices in case of wartime shortages. In 1946, the number of recommended daily servings was added to the “Basic Seven.”
In 1956, the seven food groups were condensed to the “Basic Four” in the USDA publication Essentials of an Adequate Diet. The guide was intended to meet only a portion of calorie and Recommended Dietary Allowances for nutrients. It recommended a minimum number of servings from these groups: two servings of milk and milk products; two servings of meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dry beans, and nuts; four servings of fruits and vegetables; and four servings of grain products.
In 1977, the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs issued the Dietary Goals for the United States. Goals were set for intake of protein, carbohydrate, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, sugars, and sodium, but did not translate these goals into food plans or guides. In 1979, the USDA issued the “Hassle-Free Guide to a Better Diet” which added a fifth food group to the “Basic Four,” to include fats, sweets, and alcohol, and recommended moderation in their use. It also gave attention to calories and dietary fiber. The first Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released in 1980 by the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services and have been revised every five years since then.
The Food Guide Pyramid, introduced in its current form in 1992, encourages the consumption of grains, vegetables, and fruits, but continues to recommend two to three servings each day of foods from a dairy product group and from a meat group.
|U.S. History of Nutrition Guidance|
|Vegetables (abbreviated Veg)
|Sugars & Sugary Foods|
Lean Meat, Poultry,
Dry Beans, Peas,
|Tomatoes & Citrus Fruits
Other Veg & Fruits
|Milk & Milk Products||Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Dried Peas & Beans||Oranges, Toma-
|Green & Yellow Veg||Potatoes & Other Veg
|Bread, Flour, & Cereals||Butter & Fortified Margarine|
|Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Dried Beans, & Nuts||Fruits & Vegetables||Grains|
“Food Guide Pyramid”
|Milk, Yogurt, & Cheese||Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Dried Beans, & Nuts||Fruits & Vegetables||Grains||Fats & Sweets|