2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: What Communicators Need to Know

February 5, 2016

gr-dasha-blog-postThe new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) have received a lot of attention in the news, with many praising the focus on overall healthy eating and some expressing concern with the recommendations. As DGA shape what’s on Americans’ plates for the next five years, here are some key implications for food companies and communicators to consider (click to tweet).

Sugar has been getting a bad rap for some time now, but almost every media story around the Guidelines has touched on reducing sugar intake. With the recommendation to limit sugar to 10 percent of daily calories, watch for news related to FDA’s food labeling regulations closely and be prepared for increased scrutiny around sugar levels in food.

  • Specifically, expect consumers (especially Food eVanglists) and media paying attention to the following ingredients listed on the label: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, trehalose and turbinado sugar.
  • Keep in mind that the Guidelines acknowledge including limited amounts of added sugars to improve the palatability of some nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables that are naturally tart (e.g. cranberries) and that healthy eating patterns can accommodate other nutrient-dense foods with small amounts of added sugars (e.g. whole-grain breakfast cereals or fat-free yogurt) as long as calories from added sugars do not exceed 10 percent per day.

Saturated fat and sodium are in the hot seat as well. As companies continue to reduce sodium in foods, they should reevaluate saturated fat and sodium statements for products still high in these nutrients based on overall dietary quality, especially mixed dishes and snack foods, and assess current communications strategies around sugars in general and ingredients contributing added sugar in particular.

Meat and eggs are still on the table, but as long as saturated fat, sodium and calorie recommendations are met. There is an opportunity for food companies to educate influencers and consumers about how these foods fit into a healthy dietary pattern.

Take a close look at the nutrients of concern, especially calcium, potassium, dietary fiber and vitamin D, as they relate to specific product categories and respective eating occasions of their respective brands.

  • Concerns around low vitamin D intake will continue to drive conversations around foods like fatty fish, beef liver and eggs, as well as products fortified with this important nutrient, such as milk, orange juice, plant-based milks and cereals, and potentially supplements.
  • There will be an increased focus on potassium in items where lower sodium content is desired.
  • Sources of dietary fiber and calcium will also be of importance to consumers.
  • Nutrient-dense snack options will be top-of-mind, given that snacks Americans are currently eating are lower in dietary quality than any other meal and contribute the most saturated fat.

Evaluate how foods fit the new Mediterranean and Vegetarian dietary patterns.

Align with MyPlate messages and review the examples of how “small shifts” in food choices—over the course of a week, a day, or even a meal—can make a big difference. Take a look at how you can help consumers to “make small shifts in their daily eating habits to improve their health over the long run.”

While the controversial sustainability recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee were not included in this version of the Guidelines, conversations continue with food sustainability top-of-mind with media and influencers.

Dasha is a registered dietitian and a communications professional with passion for translating the science of nutrition into actionable advice for consumers.

In her spare time, Dasha volunteers for organizations like the American Heart Association, the Chicago Food and Nutrition Network, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. As a Vice President/President-elect for CFNN, she supports the organization’s goal to connect chefs, dietitians, food journalists, scientists and food lovers through fun and engaging social and educational activities.