Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

I keep hearing about added sugars. Where can I find more information?

  • For information about added sugars, including examples of what ingredients to look out for on the food package, read What are added sugars?, from For tips on reducing your intake of added sugars, check out Cut Down on Added Sugars, based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

    In addition, on May 20, 2016, the FDA announced the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. The final rule requires “Includes X g Added Sugars” to be included under “Total Sugars” to help consumers understand how much sugar has been added to the product. For more information, check out Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label.

I heard that MyPyramid has been replaced. Is that true?

  • Yes. The MyPlate food guidance system replaced MyPyramid. MyPlate focuses on portion control and using the food groups to create a balanced diet.

What is a "healthy diet"?

  • A healthy eating pattern is one that provides enough of each essential nutrient from nutrient-dense foods, contains a variety of foods from all of the basic food groups, and focuses on balancing calories consumed with calories expended to help you achieve and sustain a healthy weight. This eating pattern limits intake of solid fats, sugar, salt (sodium) and alcohol. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans consumer pamphlet, Let's Eat For the Health of It, provides guidance for creating a healthy eating pattern to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis. Additional information on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is available at

How can I find the newest Dietary Guidelines for Americans?

I would like to get advice about my eating habits. Who should I talk to?

  • Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) are health professionals who are trained to provide counseling on nutrition and eating habits. An RDN can provide personalized dietary advice taking into consideration your health status, lifestyle, and food likes and dislikes. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a Find a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist online search tool that allows you to locate an RDN in your geographical area. Be advised that this list may not include all RDNs in your area.

How many servings from each food group do I need each day?

  • The number of servings you need each day from each food group depends on your calorie needs. To determine your calorie needs and find the number of servings that is right for you, please visit the MyPlate Daily Checklist.

What are RDAs and DRIs?

  • From 1941 to 1989, the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) released the Recommended Dietary Allowances or RDAs. The RDAs are a single set of nutrient specific values. During deliberations in the mid-1990's, the FNB decided to replace this single set of values with multiple sets of values, including: Estimated Average Requirements (EAR), Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), Adequate Intakes (AI), and Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) for designated age groups, physiologic states (for example, pregnancy), and by sex. These values are collectively referred to as the Dietary Reference Intakes, or DRIs. To view the DRI tables, please click the appropriate link below:

  • Visit the Food and Nutrition Information Center to access the full DRI reports here.

How much of a nutrient is too much?

  • The Food and Nutrition Board defines the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) as the highest level of daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects to almost all individuals in the general population. This level is different for each nutrient. To view the UL for Vitamins and Elements (also referred to as minerals or electrolytes), please refer to the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels table from the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB).

I've heard that people should cut back on how much trans fat they eat but I'm confused about what trans fats are and what foods have them.

I know there are different types of fiber in foods and that they have different effects on the body. Can you tell me about them? How much fiber should I eat?

  • Yes, the fiber in foods is generally broken down into two broad types - soluble (also called "viscous") and insoluble. Both types have important health effects. According to the DRIs, the recommended intake for total fiber for adults up to 50 years of age is 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams for men. For those over 50, the recommended intake is 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men. See the DRI Macronutrient table.

    To learn more about the types of fiber, their functions in the body, and food sources, check out Dietary Fiber from MedlinePlus.

How is food digested?

  • Digestion begins in the mouth, when we chew and swallow, and is completed in the small intestine. Digestion involves the mixing of food, its movement through the digestive tract, and the breakdown of food into smaller molecules. The digestive process varies for different kinds of food. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse webpage, Your Digestive System and How It Works, explains how food is digested and why digestion is important. This resource is also available in Spanish.

How do I know if nutrition information I find on the internet is reliable?