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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently proposed a new rule to properly align food products labeled as healthy with current nutrition science. Here’s what you need to know about the proposed update and what it means for your upcoming holiday festivities.
What is the FDA’s proposed rule?
“According to the proposed update, foods must meet specific nutrient content criteria to have their packaging state that the product is healthy,” said Joshua George, R.D., Clinical Nutrition and Patient Services manager at Inspira Health. “These products must contain a meaningful amount of nutrients from at least one of the food groups or subgroups recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), such as fruits or vegetables.”
Products labeled as healthy must also stick to specified limits for certain nutrients, including sodium, added sugars and saturated fats. These specified limits are determined by the percent of the Daily Value (DV) for the nutrient. They vary depending on the food and its food group.
The FDA's proposed rule can help explain how all nutrients across various food groups work together to create healthy eating patterns and improve overall health. By aligning foods labeled as healthy with up-to-date nutrition science, more foods would be eligible to use this wording on their labels, including fatty fish, nuts and seeds, certain oils and water.
Why is the FDA making this change?
Most people in the United States don’t eat enough fruit, vegetables or dairy, and most of us consume too much sugar, sodium and saturated fat. “Healthy foods can decrease the risk for chronic illness, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” said George. “But many people are unaware of what a balanced diet with healthy food options looks like.”
The FDA’s proposed rule will educate more Americans on nutritious choices, resulting in improved health outcomes and advancements in health equity. It’s part of their overall strategy to improve nutrition and health and ensure everyone can access healthy options.
Making healthier holiday choices
Our eating patterns do not always reflect current dietary recommendations, especially around the holidays. However, the updated guidelines can empower you to make smarter, healthier choices for yourself and your family.
While you’re out doing your holiday shopping, keep the FDA’s guidelines in mind. Read the nutrition labels and look for products that contain significant nutrients from one of the food groups, which are fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.
Turkey is an excellent source of protein and is lower in saturated fat than most other meats. Side dishes that include whole grains from rice, quinoa and barley are rich in fiber, which helps keep the gut microbiome healthy. Sweet potatoes are a good source of magnesium and potassium, which help regulate blood pressure, so consider incorporating them into your holiday spread.
“When it comes to holiday cooking, opt for homemade instead of processed foods,” said George. “Packaged, processed and prepared foods contain high amounts of salt and sugar that are avoidable if you make these dishes yourself.” Minimize your sodium intake by making your own mashed potatoes, and make your cranberry sauce from scratch to limit added sugar.
Eating well and making healthy choices over the holiday season can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. By aligning your holiday meal with current nutrition guidelines, you can prepare a wholesome holiday meal that the whole family will enjoy.
Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment with a registered dietician, call 1-800-INSPIRA.