Dietary guidelines should be practical, achievable and balanced, tailored to the public's lifestyle and needs, a new coalition formed by 18 food and meat groups said Tuesday.
The group, Back to Balance, formed in response to public policy efforts occurring at the local, state and national levels to "malign and restrict certain foods" when nutritionists and research suggests such efforts won't work.
The group instead favors dietary guidelines that are based on balanced, moderate consumption of a wide variety of foods.
"Historically, we've seen shifts in dietary recommendations that have led to conflicting messages and confusion," said nutrition specialist Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, Ph.D., RD. "These recommendations often have little to do with what Americans really eat, nor do they consider what working families could achieve given today's time and economic pressures."
The group's formation comes as the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture are developing nutritional policies like the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and new nutritional labeling requirements, among other government-related nutrition initiatives.
To coincide with the launch of the group and its new website, www.Bk2Balance.org, the Coalition also released results from an October 2014 survey of 300 registered dietitian nutritionists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants which revealed that most healthcare professionals agree balance should be stressed in healthy diet guidelines.
According to the survey, 95% agree with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating position that "the total diet or overall pattern of food eaten is the most important focus of healthy eating. All foods can fit within this pattern if consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with physical activity."
About 93% of healthcare professionals agree with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's statement that healthy eating is all about balance and that favorite foods can be enjoyed in moderation within a balanced lifestyle that includes physical activity, even if they are high in calories, fat or added sugars.
Another 96% of healthcare professionals agree that dietary recommendations must consider taste and cultural preferences to help people achieve a healthy, balanced diet. More than 94% of healthcare professionals surveyed think that adults are responsible for their own weight and diet.
Seventy-eight percent of healthcare professionals surveyed believe that an approach based on balanced, moderate consumption of a wide variety of foods would be the most effective approach to providing dietary guidance to the public.
More than 90% of the healthcare professionals surveyed said they support non-restrictive, practical, achievable dietary guidelines that convey balance, variety and moderation while taking cultural preferences into account.
More than half (54%) of healthcare professionals believe public policy that restricts certain foods, or classifies some foods as "bad," is not an effective way to improve health and nutrition.
According to Byrd-Bredbenner, Americans have been missing tools that help them incorporate dietary recommendations into modern lifestyles.
"These recommendations would emphasize portion control, listening to internal cues for satiety, and working with people on behavior-based tactics to help Americans build an overall healthful dietary pattern that takes into account the reality of how people live."
Betsy Booren, Ph.D., vice president of scientific affairs for the American Meat Institute, a Coalition member, said the group's goal is to advocate for dietary guidance that is practical, achievable and respects cultural traditions.
"There is both strong evidence and consensus that restrictive policies are ineffective and that dietary guidance works best when it teaches people to focus on balance, variety and moderation," Booren said.
"It must also provide practical tools that people can use, not idealistic recommendations that may be too difficult to implement when making food choices."
Back to Balance Coalition members include the American Association of Meat Processors, American Bakers Association, American Frozen Foods Institute, American Meat Institute, Can Manufacturers Institute, Canned Food Alliance, Food Marketing Institute, Grain Foods Foundation, Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Chicken Council, National Confectioners Association, National Potato Council, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Association, Shelf-Stable Food Processors Association, Snack Food Association, The Sugar Association and the Wheat Foods Council.