Dietary Guidelines Part 1: What do they mean for marketers?

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) releases Dietary Guidelines for Americans—they’re supposed to be a resource for health professionals and policymakers as they design and implement nutrition programs, like the USDA’s National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.

According to the HHS, about half of all American adults—117 million people, if you’re doing the math—have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity.

That’s not a cheap problem to be facing—in 2012, the total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes alone was $245 billion. That’s including nearly $180 billion in direct medical costs.

If you’re a marketer for a food or healthcare company, pay attention here. These guidelines are not just for health professionals and policymakers. This is a significant opportunity for you to help consumers not only understand the report, but also understand how they can integrate the changes into their own lifestyles.

Take a look at the new 2015-2020 Guidelines below.

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density and amount.
  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
  5. Support healthy eating patterns for all.

Some of it’s obvious. Limiting added sugars? Sure, seems fair. General Mills responded in a blog post that they’ve already been working on reducing sugar in their products.

But it’s the last guideline that stands out to me the most—support healthy eating patterns for all. According to the HHS, that means that “everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.”

The guidelines use the Social-Ecological Model, which proves that “a multitude of choices, messages, individual resources, and other factors affect the food and physical activity choices an individual makes, and these decisions are rarely made in isolation.”

It would be pretty tough to change the nation’s eating patterns as one organization alone. But if we all try, it’s worth a shot.

Our opportunity lies in the “messages” part of that definition. It comes down to how we respond to the guideline changes, what messages we put out there and how we act as a resource for people trying to make a change.

What is your organization doing to empower consumers to make smart choices? Tell us in the comments below.

Dietary Guidelines Part 2: Food and Beverage Industries that are Celebrating

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