August 23, 2018

Patterns Emerge From 40 Years of Dietary Guidelines

As Americans’ waistlines have expanded, so have the number of words in the DGAs

WASHINGTON DC, Jan. 7, 2016 – The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) will serve as the cornerstone of nutrition policy and programming for the next five years. To shed light on the evolution of this report over time, FoodMinds conducted a word content analysis[i] across all eight editions of the DGAs.

The total number of words in the DGAs increased by more than 1,500 percent since the first edition was published in 1980. What once took just over 3,000 words to articulate now takes more than 50,000.

The most significant change in the content of the DGAs has been a shift in focus from individual foods and single nutrients to a recognition that overall eating patterns matter most. In addition, the recommendations have increasingly acknowledged the importance of personal, traditional and cultural needs and preferences as well as budgetary limits.

“It is very clear that the emphasis on what to eat for health has evolved over 40 years from a focus on fat to a focus on eating patterns and a recognition that eating patterns need to be tailored to an individual because one-size-does-not-fit-all when it comes to eating healthfully,” said FoodMinds partner and co-founder Bill Layden. “The new DGAs call for major shifts in our food choices, recognizing that the changes should reflect each person’s needs, desires, health status and lifestyle.” Prior to his career in food and nutrition consulting, Layden served as USDA’s first director of nutrition promotion at the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, and was responsible for producing the 4th edition of the DGA.

Click here a full summary of findings.

For a visual depiction of how DGA buzzwords have changed over time, visit this link.


Founded in 2006, Chicago-based FoodMinds, LLC ( is a food and nutrition communications and consulting company that is boldly transforming the way the world thinks about food, nutrition and health. FoodMinds expertly navigates science, public affairs and communications to create breakthrough strategies and help clients tell a better story. The firm has nearly 40 employees, including 14 registered dietitians, and a global network of 40 nutrition affairs experts. It recently expanded its capabilities in Issues & Crisis Navigation, opened an office in San Francisco and continues to grow its global footprint.

The winner of the 2013 Holmes Report Boutique Agency of the Year and the 2012 Gold SABRE award in the public affairs category, FoodMinds is ranked in the top 10 U.S. independent food and beverage public relations firms by O’Dwyer’s. It was named a finalist for PRWeek’s 2015 Small Agency of the Year award and was cited by the 2014 Holmes World PR Report as one of the 10 fastest-growing U.S. PR companies.


Contact: Stacey Stevens
[email protected]

[i] FoodMinds, LLC conducted the word analysis via word cloud generator program Text from each edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was used to generate word clouds and calculate word frequencies. Common English words (e.g., a, the, of) were excluded from the analysis and frequencies of different forms of the same word (e.g., fat, fats, FAT) were combined. Less insightful words such as eating and food were also excluded from the analysis.

FoodMinds, LLC is reporting on the word prominence and observed trends, not the quality of evidence referenced in the documents or perspectives implied by the words.

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