The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) has shifted from looking at nutrition recommendations based primarily on individual nutrients, to addressing an overall healthy eating pattern that includes all food groups. The DGA also recognizes that everyone has a role in encouraging these healthy eating patterns. How can food and beverage companies and restaurants take an active role in helping to improve health? Let’s take a look at some examples:
The DGA highlights opportunities for health professionals working in the food and beverage sectors to identify and develop strategies that help individuals align their choices with updated dietary recommendations. Strategies include:
- Supporting policy and/or program changes
- Fostering coalitions and networks
- Developing or modifying products and menus and/or
- Creating opportunities to be physically active
The challenge for food and beverage companies, according to the DGA, is to meet public health nutrition needs including a focus on more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy foods and a greater variety of protein foods that are nutrient dense. Below are a great examples of organizations meeting this challenge through partnership:
- To improve access to healthier foods and beverages as well as increase physical activity, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation facilitates partnerships among beverage, snack food, dairy, fitness and healthcare companies.
- Within this same partnership, McDonald’s made a global commitment to increase people’s access to fruit and vegetables and help families make informed choices in keeping with balanced lifestyles among other successes. They recently announced they have reached almost 2 billion sales of fruit and yogurt sides in their Happy Meals for children.
- Last year, the Kids LiveWell Program celebrated its fourth year in collaboration with Healthy Dining to help parents and kids choose healthful menus that meet the DGA while dining out. More than 42,000 restaurant locations are part of Kids LiveWell, including Au Bon Pain, Burger King, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Chili’s Grill & Bar and Corner Bakery Cafe.
My career over the last 15 years has included important roles within the food community. As a public health professional and registered dietitian (RD), I value the role companies can play in addressing public health needs while finding creative ways to modify or reformulate food offerings. I know firsthand how RDs can be a part of helping food companies align with DGA recommendations.
We also know there is still more work to be done as our nation continues to address public health issues such as chronic diseases, which are related to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity. The good news is RDs and other health and wellness professionals can support food and beverage companies by translating the DGA into meaningful, actionable steps. Everyone can play a role to continue to improve our nation’s health through healthy eating patterns, physical activity and collaboration.