We summarize conclusions drawn from a panel discussion at the "Fifth International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition" about the roles of and emphasis on food, plant food, and vegetarianism in current and future US dietary guidelines. The most general recommendation of the panel was that future dietary guidelines, following the lead of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, should emphasize food-based recommendations and thinking to the full extent that evidence allows. Although nutrient-based thinking and Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) may help ensure an adequate diet in the sense that deficiency states are avoided, the emphasis on DRIs may not capture many important nutritional issues and may inhibit a focus on foods. More generally, in the context of the conference on vegetarian nutrition, this report focuses on the history and structure of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, on various plant food-oriented recommendations that are supported by literature evidence, and on mechanisms for participating in the process of forming dietary guidelines. Among recommendations that likely would improve health and the environment, some are oriented toward increased plant food consumption and some toward vegetarianism. The literature on health effects of individual foods and whole lifestyle diets is insufficient and justifies a call for future food-oriented research, including expanding the evidence base for plant-based and vegetarian diets. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's role should be carried forward to creation of a publicly accessible icon (eg, the current pyramid) and related materials to ensure that the science base is fully translated for the public.