The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:  Insights for Retail Dietitians

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Insights for Retail Dietitians

January 20, 2016

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

With more than 150 pages plus charts, tables, and references, the latest release of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) is a daunting read. In a webinar hosted by the Institute of Food Technology and lead by Dr. Robert Post, who led CNPP at USDA for several years, it was pointed out that the new document has 51,998 words compared to 3,159 words in the 1980 version. Clearly we’ve come a long way in food and nutrition recommendations for the prevention of disease.

In a review of the newly released DGAs, there are some clear highlights that have impact on the work of retail dietitians, including:

- Eating patterns are more important than individual nutrients. The word pattern was one of the top five words used in the entire 2015-2020 DGA document, according to research by FoodMinds, Inc., underscoring the importance of this shifted focus. It’s also a simpler message for consumers to take action against.

    • Retail RD Insight: Review your program materials and message to ensure they align with a focus on whole foods vs. nutrients. In store tours, for example, focus on how to get the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables instead of the nutrients these foods provide. If your retailer doesn’t already merchandise a meal solution center, pitch it to your merchants, buyers and marketing. This focus helps consumers build meals that align with healthy eating patterns.  

- Focus on individual dietary needs and preferences. Taste, culture, traditions, budget and health needs all impact how the consumers makes food buying and consumption decisions.

    • Retail RD Insight: Partner with your retailer’s consumer insights team to truly understand who your primary shoppers are and products they most often purchase. Use this information to build communications that align with their individual wants and needs and use suggestive selling techniques to encourage purchase of products that fit within their dietary needs and preferences.

- Shifts to more nutrient dense foods are needed to align eating habits with recommended healthy eating patterns. The key categories which the 2015 DGAs indicate shoppers need to choose more often are fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and oils (instead of solid fats). Consumers will be pleased to hear messaging about what they should eat more frequently instead of less often.

    • Retail RD Insight: While most retail RDs heavily promote produce, this national focus on the importance of fruits and vegetables is worth raising through the chain of command at your company. How can the entire company prioritize fruit and vegetable messaging over the next year? Consider leveraging the media coverage of the DGAs by building solution stations of these foods suggested for increased consumption. Build ads, web pages, Facebook pages, and Pinterest boards specifically focused on these food categories.

- Portion and calorie control are essential. This messaging underscores all sections of the updated DGAs. All consumer messaging should have a focus on portion and calorie control, first and foremost.

    • Retail RD Insight: Review and refresh class and presentation content to ensure that portion control and calorie management are included. Provide visual examples of beverage switches that can be made to reduce consumption of high caloric drinks. Communicate measurement of nutrient density as the nutrient value for the calories the food includes.  

The DGAs are a guidance document that only come to life as influencers like retail dietitians put them into action in their consumer engagement. With heightened media attention on the DGAs, your shoppers are likely hearing messages in the news. Refreshing and adding to your messaging and programs, based on the DGAs, is an ideal way to provide repeat messaging that will stick with shoppers.