The American Meat Institute, whose members harvest and process more than 90 percent of the nation’s beef, pork, lamb, and veal, and the majority of the turkey produced in the United States, is urging the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) to consider “realistic” factors, including cultural forces, family influences, personal food preferences, changes in meal patterns and advertising, among others, when developing the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

Processed meat can play role in healthy diet, AMI says“If nutritional guidance is to truly impact the healthfulness of Americans, it needs to address how to improve the food choices they already make, not an idealistic version of an eating pattern that bears no resemblance to the average eating patterns of Americans,” the Institute said. 

Specifically, AMI used its comments to demonstrate how processed meats can play a role in a healthy diet, which AMI says are a common diet staple for many Americans. For example, AMI says processed meats are widely consumed, with 56 percent of Americans saying they have consumed cold cuts or lunch meats, 47 percent bacon, 41 percent hot dogs, and 40 percent sausage within the last month.

To better illustrate for the DGAC how meat and poultry can fit into a healthy, well-balanced diet, AMI commissioned a menu model analysis using the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans requirements for macro- and micronutrients and food groups based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. The model demonstrated that processed meats, even consumed twice daily, allow consumers to stay with calorie and nutrient goals. AMI says it is simply a matter of portion control and frequency within calorie needs and that its menu model is just one example of how to educate consumers on how processed meats can fit into a healthy diet.

“Providing information to help consumers understand how to make their dietary choices fit within recommended nutrient and calorie needs is fundamental for the DGA,” AMI says. “The model shows proper portion size and smart choices, which still allows for consumers to continue enjoying the foods they love as they build an overall healthy dietary pattern that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.”

AMI also pointed the DGAC to consumer research that shows consumers want guidance, not “prescriptive advice” (eat this, not that), saying that such advice often leads to confusion in the face on conflicting advice. AMI says dietary guidance “should build upon the knowledge consumers are already familiar with and not provide idealistic recommendations that may be too difficult to be implemented or even outright rejected without any consideration for their value.

“Creating specific expectations for healthy eating may reinforce the concept of good-food/bad-food and actually increase interest in ‘unhealthy’ food,” says AMI. The Institute urged the DGAC to consider the potential unintended consequences of restricted access to foods. 

AMI’s comments are available here