Sanders made her remarks during ABA’s Bake to the Future program. Also speaking were Christine Cochran, Executive Director of the Grain Foods Foundation (GFF) and Stacey Krawczyk, a registered dietician who is President and Principal Consultant of FoodWell Strategies LLC.
The discussion was moderated by Katie Juhl, ABA’s Director of Marketing and Communications, and Hailey Blumenreich, Marketing and Communications Manager.
How the Guidelines Spotlight Grains
The DGAs are considered the cornerstone of all federal food and nutrition policy. The new recommendations were applauded by the Grain Chain, a farm to fork coalition of stakeholders in the grain industry chaired by ABA — which includes GFF.
Among key points in the 2020-2025 guidelines:
Americans should consume half of their grains from whole grain sources and the balance from enriched grains.
Whole grains are recognized as one of the three food groups that are fundamental constituents of a healthy dietary pattern — along with fruits and vegetables.
The consumption recommendation for the average healthy American adult remains at six one-ounce servings of grain foods daily, with half of those servings coming from whole grains.
For the first time, the guidelines include recommendations for ages birth to two years, including the recognition of grains as one of the traditional, nutritious first foods for infants.
Industry Drives Messaging Campaign
The Grain Chain is spearheading a communications campaign focused on the guidelines, explained Cochran. The effort includes toolkits for associations and other materials for influencers. Additional elements include a new website — gograins.org — and bilingual (English and Spanish) outreach.
“Over the next several weeks we’ll proactively pitch to the media our resources, positions, and expertise,” Cochran said.
Collaboration on MyPlate
Much of the grain industry collaborates on the USDA’s My Plate consumer nutrition education effort — which is based on the DGAs. Companies and trade organizations can participate as national strategic partners, explained Sanders.
“You might, for example, be talking about breakfast, and that's a great opportunity to mention toast and cereal and milk and a fruit that you can put on your cereal. It’s a great collaboration opportunity among different food sectors.”
Concerns on “Refined Grains” Language
Despite praise for the DGAs, the Grain Chain has expressed concern about language linking refined grains with poor dietary patterns and health outcomes. The organization and its leaders aim to partner with the USDA and HHS to help educate the public on the value of both enriched and whole grains.
During the ABA podcast, Krawczyk said there’s a place for a range of food types in diets — including indulgent items. “I believe food is about more than just nutrients,” she said. “Celebration foods are often more indulgent. This is why we have them for special occasions.”
Looking to the Future
Even though the new DGAs were just unveiled, the industry is already thinking about the next round. Cochran said GFF is investing in research on how to further enhance the position of grains, based on an analysis of the latest guidelines.
The industry, meanwhile, is preparing to engage with the incoming presidential administration and Congress to advance the discussion.
“There will be opportunities to build new relationships and educate — and ABA and the Grain Chain are great vehicles for doing that,” Sanders said.