Today’s statement of concern comes from Angelea Bruce, RD, CNSC:
“In 1997 when I began my formal nutrition education, the American Dietetic Association’s motto was “All Foods Can Fit.” As evidenced by the 2013 California Dietetic Association motto, “Dietitians on a Mission for Balance”, the mantra for moderation continues.
The Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics asks dietitians to encourage moderation in the American diet. However, the definition of moderation, a term the food industry loves, remains vague. If we look to the USDA guidelines, based on a 2,000 calorie diet, each day we should be eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 6 ounces of “grains”, 3 cups of dairy (really?), and 5-1/2 ounces of protein. If we are to maintain a healthy weight, meet the RDI for vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and consume a diet high in phytochemicals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, there is little room for any highly-processed foods or empty calories.
The Academy would like dietitians to reassure the public that, for example, drinking a Coke once in a while won’t harm their health. I don’t disagree. But in today’s food environment, Americans are being asked to navigate a junk food minefield on a daily basis. Even as a dietitian, and especially as a mother, I find it an unrelenting
and exhausting challenge to find a balance between eating a healthy diet and making room for the constant temptation of highly-processed, nutrient-poor foods that we are bombarded with every time we turn around. This is a result of runaway marketing campaigns by food corporations whose only interest is to turn increasingly larger profits for their shareholders.
To paraphrase Marion Nestle in her book, What to Eat, the more money a company spends to market a product, the less likely it is that we have a need for it. That says it all.
If dietitians are to be the respected nutrition experts we want to be known as, we should be encouraged by the Academy to educate the public regarding the agenda of Big Food, as many other non-RDs, such as Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan, and now NY Times reporter Michael Moss, are very publicly doing. We should be informing our patients and clients of the toll factory farming takes on the environment and how it puts their health at risk due to
indiscriminate antibiotic use. Or about how the U.S. food industry is allowed to continue to use certain additives and preservatives that have been banned in almost every other developed nation due to safety concerns. Or how the likes of Pepsi and Coca Cola are intentionally marketing their products to low-income and minority populations here and abroad with the goal of creating and keeping “heavy users”.
If I happen to bring any of these subjects up while wearing my professional hat, I feel as if I need to “speak off the record” because the Academy would almost certainly not support such statements, despite the plethora of unbiased literature backing them up.
Going back to the definition of moderation, I don’t believe humans have a nutritional need for cookies, cupcakes, granola bars, soda, juice, or chips. But given that they are indeed a part of our American culture and here to stay, we as nutrition experts need to be able to establish some guidelines about where to draw the line when it comes to these foods. Unfortunately, the Academy’s alliance with Big Food prevents us as a profession from even
attempting to define moderation. And it certainly prevents the Academy as an organization from taking the lead in delivering real solutions to this nation’s obesity epidemic as it should be trying to do.
When the national organization that represents dietitians as a whole essentially contradicts the likes of Nestle, Pollan, and Moss, we appear out of touch or, worse, influenced by the food industry. Our credibility tanks not only with the public, but also with other healthcare professionals whom we rely on for the very referrals that keep many of us employed.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has the opportunity to position dietitians at the forefront of real and meaningful change at a critical time in American history. To establish a true leadership role, however, the Academy needs to be able to impartially evaluate and interpret the science of nutrition for the public and offer a clear and consistent message.
We need to be honest with those who turn to us for nutrition advice and the truth is that a diet of mainly whole and minimally processed foods promotes optimal health. The Academy’s message to dietitians and to the public should be that soda, candy, and most of the other highly processed foods marketed by its current sponsors have no meaningful place in the human diet. Applying the word ‘moderation’ to the consumption of these foods without a concise definition of what we mean by that only complicates our message. Ultimately, I would like to see an Academy that is free from conflict of interest. If this was the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, I, and many other registered dietitians would become proud, lifelong members.”