WASHINGTON, July 3, 2012 -The food industry is part of the solution to helping Americans cut back on calories, not part of the problem, according to the deputy director of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP)
“The ingenuity and adaptability of the food industry can surely help in the transition to consuming less empty calories and more nutrient dense foods,” Dr. Robert Post told the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo in Las Vegas, Nev. last week.
He acknowledged that society’s focus on eating less may be perceived as a challenge for food manufacturers, because the traditional paradigm is that profits are gained by selling more food and, thus, more calories. However, he said CNPP is working with industry to dispel the myths.
“Our expectation is not to suddenly cut calories in half, but to work steadily toward a gradual reduction, in a collaborative way with producers and manufactures,” he continued.
The food industry can address this challenge by creatively using “a little bit less,” he said. For example, if you put sugar on the surface of food rather than throughout, “you still get that sweet taste but you are probably lower in calories.”
Describing the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a stimulus for creativity and innovation, Dr. Post noted the industry’s promotion of whole grains, namely the “make half your grains whole grain” slogan. He also explained marketing research that shows between 2005 and today there are 20% more whole grain offerings on the market, “and the dietary guidelines can take credit for that.” As with other challenges in making the shift toward a reduced calorie, nutrient-rich diet, he said “it is going to take a bit of modification in terms of consumer’s pallets,” but he is confident that it can be accomplished.
Evidence that consumers are receptive to this shift is illustrated by the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2012 Food and Health Survey, which found that nearly nine in ten Americans have tried to eat more fruits and vegetables, and nearly eight in ten have tried to cut calories from beverages, and report that they are cutting back on foods higher in solid fats and added sugars (and salt). Seven in ten are making efforts to consume smaller portions and six in ten are trying to balance calories to manage weight.
“The adaptability of the food industry to provide more lower calorie food and beverage choices that are market viable is the solution,” he said.
“I am not trying to sugar coat it; there is still a lot of work to be done here, But we are slowly seeing more good news examples like Bird’s Eye seasoned and steamed vegetables,” he said, calling the company’s success a testament to how the industry is moving toward more healthful foods and still bringing in large profits.
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