Tips for Translating The Dietary Guidelines

Katie ToulouseBy Katie Toulouse, Communications Manager
Canned Food Alliance




The Dietary Guidelines is written for professionals and policymakers and is not intended to drive individual behavior change on its own. As a National Strategic Partner of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, we at the Canned Food Alliance (CFA) have been working to help translate the recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines into messages, materials and tips for consumers. The Dietary Guidelines recommend all forms of fruits, vegetables, beans, lean meats and seafood, and we rely on MyPlate messaging to help communicate how canned foods fit into a daily meal plan for consumers.

MyPlate Dietary Guidelines

The messages, tips and key points below are presented as helpful ideas, designed to demonstrate how the components of healthy eating patterns can be translated from the Dietary Guidelines into consumer messages. Links to supportive consumer resources with “how-to” tips and advice are provided, along with key points that can assist you with further interpreting each topic. Because it will take a concerted effort to help individuals make lasting changes toward healthy eating patterns, consider how your educational efforts and messages connect with and support broader initiatives and strategies where you live, learn, work, or play.

Ultimately, successful nutrition education materials and messages will vary based on the needs of each audience and should be tested accordingly before use. Thus, the information below is intended to be a conceptual starting point for further message refinement and development.

The folks at the USDA have put together the following overarching communication points to help you consider what materials and messages are best for your audience.

Aim to communicate about foods first.

A basic premise of the Dietary Guidelines is that nutrient needs should be met primarily through consuming foods.

All food and beverages choices matter.

An eating pattern includes the combination of all foods and beverages that make up an individual’s complete dietary intake over time. A healthy eating pattern is more than the sum of its parts; it represents the totality of what individuals habitually eat and drink, and these dietary components act in concert to promote health.

Convey the big picture. 

The Key Recommendations for healthy eating patterns should be applied in their entirety. Although you may have a need to communicate about one food group, food component, or nutrient, it’s important to help your audience understand how a component fits within broader healthy eating patterns as a whole.

Promote nutrient-dense choices.

Healthy eating styles are based on choosing a variety of foods that contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other healthful nutrients or components at an appropriate calorie level. Nutrient-dense foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry and foods with little or no saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars.

Be inclusive.

All forms of food — fresh, canned, dried, and frozen — can be included in healthy eating patterns.

Encourage personalization.

Healthy eating patterns can be adapted and tailored to the individual to accommodate their personal, cultural, and traditional preferences, as well as food budget.

One size does not fit all.

An individual’s eating pattern, nutrient needs, and food group amounts will vary based on age, height, weight, sex, and activity level (see Appendix 2). Consider the audience you are communicating to and choose healthy eating patterns at an appropriate calorie level for the age group. For many audiences, especially children, calorie and nutrient needs can vary greatly. Providing calorie, food group, or nutrient amounts can give the audience a better understanding what healthy eating patterns include.

Empower change.

For most individuals, achieving healthy eating patterns will require changes in food choices. Suggest positive, action-oriented steps that can move individuals closer to healthy eating patterns.

Promote physical activity.

Physical activity can contribute to calorie balance and body weight management. In addition, physical activity promotes health and reduces risk of chronic disease and should be encouraged.

Harmonize efforts.

Identify and connect messages with supportive efforts in schools, worksites, communities, and other settings to make healthier choices easier for your audience.


For more information on the Dietary Guidelines and helpful tips for communicating them to consumers, visit the section for professionals at