Diets for Health: Goals and Guidelines

Am Fam Physician. 2018 Jun 1;97(11):721-728.


Diet is the single most significant risk factor for disability and premature death. Patients and physicians often have difficulty staying abreast of diet trends, many of which focus primarily on weight loss rather than nutrition and health. Recommending an eating style can help patients make positive change. Dietary patterns that support health include the Mediterranean diet, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the Healthy Eating Plate. These approaches have benefits that include prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and obesity. These dietary patterns are supported by strong evidence that promotes a primary focus on unprocessed foods, fruits and vegetables, plant-based fats and proteins, legumes, whole grains, and nuts. Added sugars should be limited to less than 5% to 10% of daily caloric intake. Vegetables (not including potatoes) and fruits should make up one-half of each meal. Carbohydrate sources should primarily include beans/legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. An emphasis on monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, avocados, and nuts, and omega-3 fatty acids, such as flax, cold-water fish, and nuts, helps prevent cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cognitive decline. A focus on foods rather than macronutrients can assist patients in understanding a healthy diet. Addressing barriers to following a healthy diet and utilizing the entire health care team can assist patients in following these guidelines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control*
  • Diet Therapy* / methods
  • Diet Therapy* / standards
  • Diet, Healthy* / classification
  • Diet, Healthy* / methods
  • Diet, Healthy* / standards
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Risk Factors