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Using Dietary Reference Intakes in Planning Diets for Individuals

The goal of planning a diet for an individual is to achieve a low probability of inadequacy while not exceeding the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for each nutrient. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) or Adequate Intake (AI) is used as the target nutrient intake for individuals, and planners should realize that there is no recognized benefit of usual intakes in excess of these levels. Food-based nutrition education tools are regularly used to help an individual plan a healthy diet.

However, as a result of the evaluation of new data regarding nutrient requirements presented in the Dietary Reference Intake reports, some nutrition education tools (e.g., the U.S. Food Guide Pyramid and Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating) may require revision to remain current. The DRIs are one of several criteria that should be considered when updating such tools.

Assuming that current nutrition education tools have been evaluated to determine if they are consistent with the new reference intakes for nutrients, individuals who wish to plan nutritionally adequate diets for themselves can review their usual intakes with one of the food guides. Food labels can be used to help choose foods that will make up a healthful diet. Individuals can further plan their intakes to be consistent with dietary guidelines (e.g., Dietary Guidelines for Americans [USDA/HHS, 2000], Canada’s Guidelines for Healthy Eating [Health Canada, 1990a]). Gaps or excesses identified can then be remedied by planning to alter the type or amount of foods selected from the various food groups, by using fortified foods, or if necessary, by using nutrient supplements.

Using Dietary Reference Intakes in Planning Diets for Individuals