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Healthy Eating

USDA Food Patterns

The Dietary Guidelines describe three USDA Food Patterns, each of which includes slight variations in amounts recommended from different food groups. You can adapt any of these eating patterns to suit your cultural or personal preferences.

3 forks- one with lettuce, cheese and tomato; one with steak and herbs; one with a strawberry

The USDA Food Patterns are designed to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits. And they all include the characteristics of healthy eating patterns that research has linked to reduced risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

The USDA Food Patterns are:

Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern. This eating pattern is based on the types and amounts of foods Americans typically consume. The main types of food in this eating pattern include a variety of vegetables; fruits; whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy; seafood, poultry, meat, and eggs; and nuts, seeds, and soy products.

Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern. This eating patterns contains more fruits and seafood and less dairy than the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern. There is also less calcium and vitamin D because it includes fewer dairy foods.

Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern. This eating pattern contains no meat, poultry, or seafood. Compared with the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern, it contains more soy products, eggs, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.

The chart below shows how to reach three different daily calorie totals. Amounts are per day, unless labeled per week. Food group amounts are shown in cup-equivalents (c-eq) or ounce-equivalents (oz-eq). Oils are shown in grams (g).

Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern: What and How Much to Eat at Different Calorie Levels
Food Group 1,600 calories 2,000 calories 2,400 calories
Vegetables 2 c-eq 2-1/2 c-eq 3 c-eq
Fruits 1-1/2 c-eq 2 c-eq 2 c-eq
Grains 5 oz-eq 6 oz-eq 8 oz-eq
Protein foods 5 oz-eq 5-1/2 oz-eq 6-1/2 oz-eq
Seafood 8 oz-eq/week 8 oz-eq/week 10 oz-eq/week
Meat, poultry, eggs 23 oz-eq/week 26 oz-eq/week 31 oz-eq/week
Nuts, seeds, soy products 4 oz-eq/week 5 oz-eq/week 5 oz-eq/week
Dairy 3 c-eq 3 c-eq 3 c-eq
Oils 22 g 27 g 31 g
Calories for Other Uses 130 calories 270 calories 350 calories

The table below compares the Dietary Guidelines' three healthy eating patterns for a person who eats 2,000 calories per day. The column for the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern is the same as the 2,000 calorie (middle) column in the table above. Amounts are per day, unless labeled per week. Food group amounts are shown in cup-equivalents (c-eq) or ounce-equivalents (oz-eq). Oils are shown in grams (g).

Healthy Eating Patterns: 2,000-Calorie Level Amounts
Food Group U.S.-Style Mediterranean-Style Vegetarian
Vegetables 2-1/2 c-eq 2-1/2 c-eq 2-1/2 c-eq
Fruits 2 c-eq 2-1/2 c-eq 2 c-eq
Grains 6 oz-eq 6 oz-eq 6-1/2 oz-eq
Protein foods 5-1/2 oz-eq 6-1/2 oz-eq 3-1/2 oz-eq
Seafood 8 oz-eq/wk 15 oz-eq/wk
Meat, poultry, eggs 26 oz-eq/wk 26 oz-eq/wk 3 oz-eq/wk (eggs)
Nuts, seeds, soy products 5 oz-eq/wk 5 oz-eq/wk 15 oz-eq/wk
Dairy 3 c-eq 2 c-eq 3 c-eq
Oils 27 g 27 g 27 g
Calories for Other Uses 270 calories 260 calories 290 calories

Learn about the food groups and maintaining a healthy weight.

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

For More Information on Healthy Eating

USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center   
National Agricultural Library

U.S. Department of Agriculture

This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date.