KANSAS CITY — The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are the cornerstone of federal nutrition programs and policies, providing food-based recommendations to help lower the risk of diet-related chronic diseases and promote overall health.

And every five years, the federal government publishes a new set of guidelines, based on a preponderance of scientific evidence, Barbara Schneeman, who served as the chair of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, said in a session at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)’s FIRST, a virtual event held July 19-21.

Ms. Schneeman, a nutrition professor emerita, provided insight into how the process works to put the guidelines together. The committee evaluates scientific evidence to address questions from the US Department of Agriculture and US Health and Human Services, which are the agencies that publish the Dietary Guidelines.

Guidelines are then written based on the report the advisory committee submits, which was more than 800 pages for the 2020-2025 guidelines, as well as public input. The Dietary Guidelines were published in December 2020.

Ms. Schneeman shared some of the committee’s work, including the comparison of what Americans are eating vs. the 2015 guidelines of what they should be eating. Americans in general are not eating the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, but they are eating more than is recommended of refined grains, meats and poultry.

She also presented a chart showing what many Americans already know: Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains lower the risk of disease while consuming a diet of processed meats and red meat, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains increases the risk of disease.

The committee then helped to develop recommended eating patterns for Americans to lead a healthy lifestyle by eating nutrient-dense foods, which provide vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting components with little added sugars, saturated fat and sodium, she said.

The latest edition of the guidelines can be found at DietaryGuidelines.gov.