The 2010 dietary guidelines are finally here, and it seems the-less-is more approach carried the day. There were no drastic upheavals or shakeups at the top, and according to the guidelines, grain foods remain the cornerstone of a healthy diet. From the “thanks, Captain Obvious” department, calorie reduction and exercise are given plenty of ink, as obesity remains a major national health problem. With a recommendation to limit its consumption, sodium has officially assumed the role of the next in a long line of ingredient whipping boys.
One change that will raise eyebrows in the baking industry was the recommendation to make half of consumed grains whole grains. This implies a direct replacement of refined grains with whole in the American diet, a reflection of the larger message of packing more goodness into less with nutrientdense foods.
As per usual, a few product categories are singled out and vilified. Carbonated beverages took it on the chin with the recommendation to replace soda with water as an easy way to limit calorie intake.
But this really comes down to changing human behavior–no easy task. Where the new guidelines succeed is in making this behavioral change actionable and incremental. Instead of vaguely suggesting that people eat more fruits and vegetables, the 2010 guidelines recommend that half of a dinner plate should consist of fruits and vegetables. This allows consumers to take affirmative, attainable steps to positively alter their behaviors and health incrementally.
The shift toward nutrient-rich foods is a boon for bakers, as their products are natural conduits for vitamins and nutrients. And continuing with the theme of helping consumers take proactive action to change behavior, health claims that extol the positive virtues of a given food instead of communicating in the negative, with “free-from” claims, is a good idea.
Even one of baking’s mainstays, desserts, are getting in on the “what have you done for me lately” act. The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade Inc. (NASFT), highlighted “desserts with benefits” as a major trend in food in 2011, saying manufacturers ought to “focus on accentuating the positives of what is in a product, rather than emphasizing what is not in it.”
Asking consumers to deprive themselves of an ingredient they enjoy, be it sugar or sodium or anything else, is no way to effect widespread behavioral change. Telling them what’s good about a product, what it brings to the table and how it helps achieve the goal of packing more goodness into less, seems to be a more constructive use of label space.