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Meal Plan – USDA Processes Food Meal Plan

Not into healthy foods but yearning for a healthy life? Check out how to make it happen by using this USDA guide!

To test if ultra-processed foods can be used to build a healthy diet, ARS scientists and collaborators created a menu with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks using MyPyramid as a guide for a seven-day, 2,000-calorie food pattern The menu consisted of foods categorized as ultra-processed by at least two NOVA graders. The foods included in the menu also aligned with 2020 DGA recommendations for servings of groups and subgroups of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. Scientists selected food products that have lower levels of saturated fats and added sugars while still containing enough micronutrients and macronutrients. Some of the ultra-processed foods used in this menu included canned beans, instant oatmeal, ultra-filtered milk, whole wheat bread, and dried fruit.

“We used the Healthy Eating Index to assess the quality of the diet as it aligns with key DGA recommendations. The menu we developed scored 86 of 100 points on the Healthy Eating Index-2015, meeting most of the thresholds, except for sodium content [exceeded recommendations] and whole grains [below recommendations].”

ARS Research Nutritionist Julie Hess 

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) appropriate for those populations for whom the DGA considers 2000 kcal appropriate, namely, females 19 to 30 years and males 51 years and older, to the nutrients provided by the ultra-processed DGA menu.

Macro- and micronutrient content of the sample menu, as well as energy density.

NutrientsUltra-processed DGA Menu Nutrient Values
Calories (kcal)2025
Energy density (kcal/g)0.936
Protein (g)112
Carbohydrate (g)275
Added sugars (g)28.04
Added sugar (teaspoon equivalents)6.68
Fiber, total dietary (g)37
Total lipid, fat (g)57.9
Saturated fatty acids (g)15
Monounsaturated fatty acids (g)20.4
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (g)17.4
Omega-3 fatty acids (g)10.965
Omega-6 fatty acids (g)26.84
EPA (g)0.1
DHA (g)0.2
Cholesterol (mg)167
Calcium (mg)1589
Iron (mg)21
Magnesium (mg)466
Phosphorus (mg)1993
Potassium (mg)3948
Sodium (mg)4569
Zinc (mg)16
Copper (mg)2
Selenium (mg)137
Vitamin A, RAE (mcg)1519
Vitamin E, AT (mg)11.76
Vitamin D (IU)397.7
Thiamin (mg)146
Riboflavin (mg)1.83
Niacin (% eq, mg)45.79
Vitamin B6 (mg)2.53
Vitamin B12 (mcg)7.95
Choline (mg)351
Vitamin K (mcg)340
Folate, DFE (mcg)480

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