The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) provide science-based recommendations for healthy dietary patterns to promote health and reduce risk of chronic diseases. Yet, since their inception in 1980, Americans have fallen short of meeting dietary recommendations and diet-related chronic diseases continue to be a public health concern.
In May of 2021, the Institute of Food Technologists and the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, convened a diverse group of thought leaders in health, nutrition, and food science, including ASN’s Chief Science Policy Officer, Sarah Ohlhorst, to identify opportunities and approaches to improve consumer adoption of the DGA recommendations. The invited leaders collaborated in roundtable discussions to develop recommendations and strategies to promote adoption of the DGA recommendations after hearing sessions on the latest consumer trends, advances in food science and technology, and effective communications approaches. Participants agreed that changes in consumer behaviors and heightened interest in health due to the novel coronavirus pandemic have created an opportune time to engage consumers about healthy eating.
The American Society for Nutrition and the Institute for Food Scientists have collaborated to jointly publish the recommendations in their respective journals. A summary of recommendations is included below.
Recommendations and Approaches to Promote Adoption and Adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA)
Leverage the positive changes affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including a greater focus on health and the prevalence of home-cooking:
- Emphasize health benefits and other motivating values, such as increased family time, gained through cooking at home.
- Demonstrate the ease of incorporating healthy foods and ingredients from multiple types of processing into home-cooked meals.
- Empower consumers with cooking skills and methods to prepare a variety of foods that can be a part of a healthy dietary pattern.
Continue to promote a safe, healthy, affordable, accessible, and consumer-acceptable food supply:
- Advance food science and technology to expand a healthy and safe food supply and drive toward making foods created with these technologies more affordable for all consumers.
- Leverage the current interest in science to debunk myths about food processing by demonstrating the similarity of techniques used to make foods at home and at scale in food industry, to show how food processing can contribute to the solution.
- Destigmatize food categories, such as canned and frozen, to expand consumers understanding of the many foods that can help them conveniently and affordably meet the DGA recommendations.
Broaden collaborations and partnerships within the food sector and beyond:
- Unify and amplify the messages of the DGA.
- Advocate for public-private partnerships and investment to start moving dietary patterns closer to the DGA recommendations.
- Require adequate nutrition and health promotion training of primary care physicians and other healthcare professionals and offer continuing education for practitioners.
- Partner with retailers to amplify messages in store and online to nudge consumers to healthier meal patterns.
- Better understand and learn from the challenges and successes of implementation of the DGA with large populations, such as in school meals and foodservice.
Employ communication strategies to build trust:
- Move away from traditional communication approaches that focus on education to strategies that meet consumers where they are to affect small changes in diet that add up over time.
- Develop targeted, simple, consistent messages for different demographics, age, culture, race, values, motivators, etc.
- Employ a diverse set of communication platforms commonly used by the targeted audience.
- Engage influencers/spokesperson(s) the target consumer will relate to and trust.