5 Tips for Recommending a Healthy Diet
By Alison Borgmeyer MS, RDN
Senior Vice President/Nutrition Media Strategist at Ketchum
According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, with few exceptions, the U.S. population does not meet intake recommendations for fruits, vegetables, beans and seafood – all key components of a healthy diet. Therefore, one of the primary recommendations health professionals can share with their clients and patients is including all forms of fruits, vegetables, beans and seafood into their diets.
Given this call to action, an important question is how can nutrition experts best communicate the new guidelines and its “all forms” message to increase the likelihood that consumers will act on this advice?
Avoid “limiting language.” A recent survey, commissioned by Produce for Better Health Foundation, found the way dietary recommendations are communicated has an impact on perceptions and purchase intent. Strongly and consistently reinforcing the healthfulness of fruits and vegetables regardless of form, results in positive consumer perceptions of packaged fruits and vegetables. Language that over-emphasizes the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables and devalues packaged forms, detracts from the perceived healthfulness of packaged fruits and vegetables. Encourage consumption of all forms of fruits, vegetables and beans, enabling patients and clients to increase their intake and make positive food choices.
Use terminology consumers understand. When it comes to healthy eating, the “fresh is best” mantra prevails. As the latest nutrition guidelines especially emphasize whole produce because of its nutrition benefits, remind your clients and patients that “whole produce” means canned, frozen and dried forms, not just fresh. For example, when the guidelines suggest choosing whole fruits, this can mean 1 banana, 1 apple, 1 cup of canned peaches or pineapple, 1 cup of frozen strawberries, etc.
Tell them what they can have. Rather than telling your patients and clients what they can’t have, take a more positive approach by listing foods that they can add to their diet to improve overall nutrient intake while maintaining appropriate portion sizes like adding a piece of fruit at breakfast or a cup of canned beans at dinner. Recent research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics confirms that children and adults who added canned fruits and vegetables had better diets, greater overall fruit and vegetable consumption and increased intake of key nutrients – without compromising sodium intake or weight – compared to those who did not consume canned fruits and vegetables.
Make changes manageable. Consumers may view sound nutrition advice as valuable but also overwhelming and hard-to-follow. Instead of giving consumers general advice such as “eat more fruits and vegetables,” provide easy-to-implement tips. A good example: “Eating more fruits and vegetables doesn’t require a lot of extra work and money: try adding just one canned food ingredient to your favorite cereal or pasta sauce to reap the nutrition benefits.”
Suggest simple swaps. Focusing on small simple changes makes healthy eating more manageable and sustainable over the long term. Educate your clients about making simple swaps like eating scrambled eggs with veggies instead of a breakfast sandwich, substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream and using canned beans and lentils instead of meat.