Fundamentals of Human Nutrition/Dietary Planning

Dietary PlanningEdit

2.5.1 USDA Food PatternsEdit

Dietary Planning: USDA Food Patterns

The USDA Food Patterns were created in order to guide and inform consumers about the Dietary Guidelines recommendations. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans about every five years. They provide consumers with information in order for individuals to make appropriate food choices. It is used to help an individual maintain a healthy lifestyle and reduce the risk of disease. The USDA Food Patterns assign foods into five major food groups, which are fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. These groups and their subgroups suggest the amounts of food needed to consume in order to meet the recommended nutrients. The USDA Food Patterns also show the amount oils needed and the maximum number of calories that can be consumed from fats and added sugars.

The amount of each food group needed daily varies on the person and his or her energy needs. The USDA Food Patterns uses different calorie levels in order to provide an accurate guide for people of all ages. The USDA Food Patterns are typically shown in a table that list the five major food groups and the different calorie levels. The chart shows the amount of each food is needed to meet a certain calorie level. The amount of food is usually measured in cups, ounces, and grams.

In addition, there are subgroups for the five different major food groups. For example, the vegetable group can be broken down into subgroups: dark-green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables. Some of the charts of USDA Food Patterns also show the amount of oils, solid fats, and added sugars needed. There is also a calorie range chart that shows how many calories are needed for females and males of all ages. It also gives an estimate of the individual calorie needs for people that are either sedentary or active. Furthermore, the USDA Food Patterns also show the nutrients need for different calorie levels. The nutrients include macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. The nutrient groups can be combined with the food groups in order to show the amount of nutrients can be obtain from certain subgroups. There are many way for the USDA Food Patterns to be listed in order to educate the consumer. The USDA Food Patterns have been made into a food pyramid, and they have also been recently been made into “MyPlate.” This is used to communicate the Dietary Guidelines, and it is designed to illustrate the consumption of many different nutritional foods.


Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from

USDA Food Patterns. (2010). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from

Whitney, E., & Rolfes, S. Understanding Nutrition (14th ed.).

2.5.2 Exchange ListsEdit

Vitamins are compounds that occur naturally in foods and are essential for several functions. They can be either fat-soluble or water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are metabolized and stored by the fat in your body. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored and must be consumed every day. Your body excretes the water-soluble vitamins it doesn't use. Eating a balanced diet, incorporating foods from all food groups, ensures you get all of the important vitamins you need.

The Exchange List system is originally and most ideal for diabetics. It guides the consumer to make food choices on the basis on different food groups based on their energy content. Those grouped together have the same content of calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Therefore, a person who follows those guidelines can exchange any number of foods within that food group and receive the same nutritional content. This is especially important for those who have special dietary needs such as diabetics (Rodibaugh, n.d., p. 1).

For that reason, according to the Mayo Clinic Staff (2015), each exchange list can be used for diabetics to control their blood sugar content while maintaining a healthy diet. In fact, this can be extended towards everyone in order to live a healthy lifestyle. Diets can be prescribed or recommended by dietitians to create the optimal diet on an individual basis. One way to create a plan to maintain lower blood sugar content is through the exchange list program which houses “choices”. These choices are described within the main food groups (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2015, p. 1).

Such that is the basis of the system, Dr. Rosemary Rodibaugh (n.d.) explains in her introduction page that there are three main groups: carbohydrates, meat and substitute, and fat group. Within each group are subsections such as fruit, milk, starch, vegetables, and other carbohydrates for the carbohydrates group. The section is thus divided again into different types of food products that fall within that category. Furthermore, the subsections within the main groups contain the specific grams of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in addition to total calories. For example, within the starch list is a category such as bread. Under this category there can be specific products such as a bagel with a description of its serving, or in this case ½ serving or 1 oz. (Rodibaugh, n.d., 1-2).

Moreover, the Diabetes Education Online organization (n.d.) explains that each main food group has a certain number of grams within on exchange. For example, for carbohydrates there can be 15 grams within one exchange. Furthermore, to carry out such a plan it it is important to talk to a dietitian to obtain the proper ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats while staying within the recommended calorie intake as suggested by Lyon College (n.d.). From there, the individual can choose from lists created from organizations such as American Diabetic Association and American Dietetic Association. Lists are predetermined and solely based on energy content not on traditional food groups. For example, within the starchy vegetables category there are plantains, pumpkins, and spaghetti/spaghetti sauce. These would normally be under other food groups such as fruits or grains but their content is such that they resemble other food groups such as corn or baked potatoes. Within this category includes 15 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 1 gram of fat, and 80 categories (Lyon College, n.d.).


Diabetes Education Online (n.d.), Carbohydrate Exchanges. Retrieved from Lyon College (n.d.). Your Diabetes Diet: Exchange Lists. Retrieved From Mayo Clinc Staff (2015), Diabetes Diet: Create your healthy-eating plan. Retrieved from Rodibaugh, R. (n.d.), The Exchange List System for Diabetic Meal Planning. University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Retrieved from

2.5.3 Food LabelsEdit

Practically all packaged foods have food labels which provide information about ingredients, serving sizes, the amounts of nutrients, and Daily Values. Restaurants are also providing nutritional information on their menus, including kcalories and amount of fat in a given dish. These labels are valuable sources of information for dietary planning, especially for individuals following specific diets due to health concerns or issues.

Nutrition Facts Label

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration breaks down the nutrition facts label into three parts: serving size, calories, and nutrients. Serving sizes have been standardized among common foods to allow for easier comparison between different products. The general units include cups, ounces, or even the number of pieces. The serving size used will affect the rest of the information on the label. It is important for consumers to take note of the serving size before analyzing the rest of the nutritional information because ¼ cup of a product will certainly have fewer calories and grams of fat than ½ cup of that same product. The next part of the nutrition facts label is the calories per serving and the calories from fat. Calories are a measure of energy and most nutritional guides are based on a 2,000 kcalorie diet. The total calories are determined based on the serving size and the calories from fat are how many of those calories come solely from fat. For example, a single serving may have a total of 250 calories but 100 of those calories may be from fat. Paying attention to the amount of calories and using it to control portions can be used in diet planning. Consumers can also gather information about the nutrients present in foods and the Daily Values of these nutrients. Daily Values must be provided for kcalories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, sugars, protein, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium. Fats (saturated and trans), cholesterol, and sodium should be limited in the diet to prevent the onset of obesity, heart complications, and other chronic illnesses. However, beneficial nutrients such as Vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium should be consumed in quantities that satisfy daily needs. Daily values are calculated based on age and gender by the FDA in order to find the amounts of nutrients in a single serving in relation to the required amount. The percent Daily Value can also be found on food labels and are based on a 2,000 kcalorie diet. Ingredients Another valuable source of information on food labels is the ingredient list. All ingredients, natural and additives, must be listed. The ingredients are listed in a specific order: the first ingredient is the most present in terms of weight. The list then descends in terms of the weight of the ingredient in the product. Consumers can determine the nutrient density of food products by looking at the first ingredient in the list. Is the first ingredient something nutritious like whole grain or is it sugar? The ingredient list is also useful for those individuals who have food allergies.

Front-of-Package Labels

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute has implemented a quicker way to retrieve the same information that would be found on a nutrition facts panel. Facts Up Front can be found on the front of food packages and utilize different colors and symbols. There is a standardized aesthetic that provides key facts like the amount of calories, fats, sodium, and sugars.

Claims Made by Food Labels

The various claims that consumers may encounter on the Nutrition Facts panel include nutrient claims, health claims, and structure-function claims. These can cause confusion and mislead the consumer about the quality of the food product they are buying. Nutrient claims disclose the amount of a nutrient that can be found in the product. These claims must follow FDA standards before they can be made. Before saying something is “fat free”, the product must meet the FDA’s expectations of food that has low enough amounts of fat to be considered “fat free”. If nutrients have been added to a food, these must also be listed on the product. When food manufacturers make a correlation between food and a health condition, they are making health claims. Some of these may be based on true research and evidence. However, there are claims that have not been backed by enough evidence to be considered proven. Precise language must be used when supporting these claims. The last type of claim is structure-function claims which do not require FDA approval but imply a relationship exists between a nutrient and a function in the body. These do not require proof so long as these claims do not specifically name a disease or illness. They can appear similar to health claims but structure-function claims do not require the FDA’s approval.

The first items on the nutrition facts label that a consumer should look at are the serving size and the number of servings in the package. The serving size helps the consumer to compare items, and it influences the amount of all the nutrients listed on the label. The next item on the nutrition facts label that a consumer should look at is the calories. The number of calories is indicative of how much energy the individual gets from the food product. Americans have a tendency to consume more calories than necessary, so it is very important to understand how many calories are in the food that is being purchased and eaten. Americans also tend to consume an excess of fat, cholesterol, and sodium, which are listed at the top of the nutrition label. The amount of these nutrients that are consumed need to be limited. When a consumer is comparing foods, it is best to look for lower amounts of these nutrients. Other nutrients, such as fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron, can improve your health. It is important that adequate amounts of these nutrients are consumed to prevent certain health conditions. The Food and Drug Administration requires authorization for health claims on nutrition labels. The administration reviews petitions for health claims and the evidence supporting these health claims must be found credible in order for the petition to be approved. The health claim must contain both a substance and a health condition. This process prevents consumers from receiving incorrect information on their food labels. Nutrient content claims describe the amount of nutrients in a specific product, and compare the level of nutrients between products. Terms such as free, high, low, more, reduced and lite are used to make these claims. In order for a product to be labeled fat free, it must contain less than 0.5 grams of fat in each serving. A low fat product must contain less than 3 grams in each serving and a reduced fat product must have 25% less fat than the original product. High fat products have more than 13 grams per serving and the label must instruct the consumer to look at the nutrition facts for fat content. There are also specific label claim guidelines for calorie, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar content. These guidelines are important to follow, so the consumer understands the nutritional content of the product and how it can impact their health. However, these claims can also be misleading. For example, if the consumer believes they are purchasing a fat free product, but it has 0.5 grams of fat, they do not have an accurate idea of the nutritional content of the food they are eating.


• U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Daily Values. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2013). Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (6. Ingredient Lists). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved from • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2015). How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved from • Whitney, E. & Rolfes S. (2014) Understanding Nutrition, 14th. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.

How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label. (n.d.). Retrieved December 5, 2015, from

How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label. (n.d.). Retrieved December 5, 2015, from

Food Label Claims and Guidelines. (n.d.). Retrieved December 5, 2015, from

A large part in dietary planning involves being able to accurately read and interpret food labels, more specifically nutrition fact panels and label claims. The basics to learning how to read a nutrition facts panel starts with the serving size. You can find this at the top of the panel. Always compare portion size of your actual meal to the serving size. This allows for an accurate portrayal of how many calories and fat you are actually eating. (EatRight, 2015) Next, checking out the total calories and fat is essential to dietary planning, especially when watching weight. Total calories and calories from fat should be the focus. To help get a better understanding of how the food you are eating fits comparably to your entire daily meal plan, use percent Daily Values. The Daily Value is a model for nutrients in one serving of food based on a 2,000-calorie diet. (Mayo Clinic, 2015) For example, if your food has 18% total fat Daily Value percentage, then that one serving of your food has 18% of the fat content you are recommended for the day. Using this as your guide for nutrient and macronutrient content is a great asset to dietary planning. Having a low DV of 5% or lower should typically be reserved for total fat, trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Implementing these restrictions allows for a decreased risk of chronic disease and hypertension. Having a DV percentage of 20% or higher should be aimed towards vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Doing this will help to maintain good health and also decrease risk of disease and hypertension. Additionally, the DV of protein is not required to be on the label because most Americans eat protein in excess. Aiming for lean protein such as poultry, fish, and eggs is recommended. Lastly, limiting added sugars is pertinent to dietary planning. Added sugars will be listed in ingredients. Beware of added sugars coming from refined sources including table sugar or corn syrup. Ingredient lists are required if the foods have more than one ingredient and are listed in order from most weight to least. (FDA, 2015)


Nutrition and healthy eating. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2015, from

The Basics of the Nutrition Facts Panel. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2015, from

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2015, from

2.5.4 Using Your PlanEdit

Everyday, multiple times a day, you make food choices on what to eat and what not to eat. Most people on average eat what ever is in front of them with out giving much thought to the contributing nutrients, health benefits or health consequences of the chosen foods. In this section, we will discuss on reasons why it is beneficial to create a healthy meal plan and how to efficiently and effectively put a healthy meal plan to use. People can use meal plans to lose weight, maintain weight or just make sure they are staying healthy by getting the proper daily recommendations of the food groups. Following a meal plan allows one to follow an eating pattern that ensures they are getting the proper daily recommendations and also allows them to make smart nutrition decisions based on their health goal. Setting up a meal plan allows one to lose weight by making sure there is a healthy deficit in calories per week. In trying to lose weight, one must make sure they are still getting healthy proportions of their food groups based on the USDA and what their activity level is like. If you are active, you must make sure you are getting the proper nutrients to support your body’s work out activities. Loosing weight too quickly is detrimental to health and is recommended to 1 lb per week. One could set up a meal plan to maintain weight by making sure they are staying in the range of their food recommendations. Also, using a meal plan is beneficial for ones health by getting the correct amount of daily recommendations of food. Having too much or too little of a nutrient can result in health problems and diseases. Eating the proper amount of foods decreases the risk of creating health issues. Creating meal plans easily guides people of what foods to eat that will deliver the acceptable amount of nutrients that the body needs without much thought process. First, one must know information of the food groups in order to efficiently and effectively put your meal plan to use. Based on the knowledge of knowing what foods you should be eating, you should also know the proportions of foods you need in each food group based on your activity level, age and sex. Each food group delivers key nutrients that are necessary for the body’s needs. Once you know the amounts of food you need to consume per food group, you can decide which foods you would like to eat. You can base you diet on a 3-meal per day plan of breakfast, lunch, and dinner with bigger portions or choose to make a 6-meal per day plan of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with snack times in between, but with smaller portions. Whichever you prefer, you must make sure you are totaling to the daily amount of food from each food group recommended. Some people get bored of eating the same foods everyday and it is also important to make sure you have variety and moderation in your diet. What is recommended is making a different meal plan for each day of the week and then switching your day plans for the following weeks. Putting your plan to use allows you to make smart decisions on what you are eating in order to stay healthy.


Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from USDA Food Patterns. (2010). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from Whitney, E., & Rolfes, S. Understanding Nutrition (14th ed.).