A new menu model analysis developed by a team of nutrition experts shows that processed meat and poultry products – currently consumed regularly by Americans – can fit into a healthy balanced diet, according to comments submitted by the American Meat Institute to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
AMI's menu model analysis used the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans requirements for macro- and micronutrients and food groups based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet. The menu model incorporated commonly consumed foods and meals found in a typical American diet including food eaten away from home, as well as traditional and better-for-you choices, which are easy to find options in local grocery stores.
The model demonstrated that diets that include processed meats, even consumed twice daily for a week, allow consumers to stay within daily calorie goals, and daily goals for nutrients to limit, while meeting or exceeding needs for nutrients that should be encouraged.
The model shows proper portion size and smart choices, which still allows for consumers to continue enjoying foods such as chocolate and red wine, while helping them build an overall healthy dietary pattern that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, according to AMI.
"If nutritional guidance is to truly impact the healthfulness of Americans, it needs to address how to improve the food choices they already make, not an idealistic version of an eating pattern that bears no resemblance to the average eating patterns of Americans," the Institute said.
Guidance, not bans
The Institute also detailed consumer research that shows consumers want guidance, but dislike prescriptive advice.
A 2013 poll conducted by the University of Chicago-based NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found 83% of those surveyed were in favor of the government providing nutritional guidelines and information about how to make healthy choices for themselves.
By contrast, another poll found little support for policies that would constrain consumer choice, like bans.
AMI said a recent commentary in Childhood Obesity argued that forced eating behaviors of foods that are not enjoyed can actually increase interest in the restricted food.
"Creating specific expectations for healthy eating may reinforce the concept of good-food/bad-food and actually increase interest in 'unhealthy' food," the Institute wrote. "AMI is hopeful that the DGAC considers the potential unintended consequences of restricted access to foods. AMI strongly encourages the expertise of consumer behaviorists be utilized as the DGAC develops and finalizes recommendations to lead to successful adoption."
Consider product reformulations
In its comments, AMI also said that nutrition data must be used that is based upon the current state of product formulation.
A survey of the Institute's members found that 70% of respondents were actively involved in reformulating products to reduce nutrients like sodium, while 50% already offer products that qualify as healthy, yet federal nutrition databases do not reflect these efforts, AMI said.
"DGAC needs to recognize the current consumption patterns and up-to-date marketplace data as they finalize their recommendations," AMI said.
"Dietary guidance should be practical, affordable and attainable. Recognizing the eating patterns of the average American and providing information on how they can eat a more healthful diet within the context of their existing food choices is critical," the Institute concluded. Demonstrating that all foods, including meat, poultry and processed meats, can fit in a balanced diet will lead to consumers making more healthful choices. These types of actionable recommendations could lead to measurable public health improvements."