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Helping Consumers Follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

In 1980, the first publication of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) was released. Every five years since, the guidelines have been updated, producing nine guidelines to date. Over the course of the last forty years, the DGAs have become the cornerstone of federal food and nutrition guidance. And yet, broad consumer behavior has not aligned with the recommendations of the guidelines, underscoring a need to enhance efforts to encourage adoption and improve public health.

In May 2021, IFT hosted a two-day roundtable event in conjunction with the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst focused on improving consumer adherence to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The virtual sessions brought together a diverse set of thought leaders, including policymakers, food and nutrition scientists, behavioral scientists, dietitians, and consumer advocates.

Four key areas emerged as the biggest opportunities to help consumers adhere to the DGAs:

  • Leverage current consumer interest in healthy eating and home cooking.
  • Continue to innovate in food science and technology to expand a healthy, safe, and affordable food supply.
  • Amplify the messages of the DGA through expanded collaborations and partnerships with all public and private entities invested in the health of Americans.
  • Utilize communication strategies that are tailored to different consumers and build trust.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer focus on healthy food choices has increased, creating an opportune time to amplify the healthy dietary patterns recommended in the DGAs. However, the meeting participants noted there are many conflicting messages in the media about healthy eating, and consumers are often confused. Science of food and nutrition professionals have the credibility to bring clarity to these confusing messages, but they must also work to establish trust with consumers through shared values and experiences for consumers to consider their message.

IFT Past President Noel Anderson, PhD, and several other food and nutrition scientists highlighted how many food preservation technologies, such as canning, drying, and flash freezing, have helped make healthy foods more affordable, available, and convenient for consumers to meet DGA recommendations.  They also discussed the many emerging technologies that can help promote healthy foods in the marketplace aligned with the DGA recommendations.

Another major recommendation of the meeting was to build broader partnerships with all public and private entities that are invested in the health and wellbeing of Americans, including retailers, school educators and administrators, foodservice operators, insurance companies, athletes, social media influencers, health coaches, religious leaders, and many more. 

In an effort to amplify the meaningful outcomes from this meeting, individuals at IFT, including current and former staff members, drafted and submitted papers highlighting these opportunities, in addition to other outcomes of the meeting, to relevant journals. 

The Journal of Food Science and Current Developments in Nutrition recently accepted and published respective papers summarizing the outcomes of IFT’s roundtable event. Read the article now

Only by uniting our efforts and investment, can we move the needle on healthy eating in America, and IFT remains dedicated to furthering consumer education and adoption.

About the Author

Lisa Sanders, PhD, RD, is a nutrition science consultant for IFT.

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