Innovation Marks National Nutrition Month!

NatNutMonth 160318 Savor the Flavor

Innovation Marks National Nutrition Month!

March 22, 2016

Innovation Marks National Nutrition Month!

March is National Nutrition Month. Many innovative USDA programs are improving access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020About half of all American adults—117 million individuals, according to USDA—have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity. These include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and poor bone health. More than two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children and youth are overweight or obese.  Trends in food intake show that Americans do not follow healthy eating patterns.

2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Earlier this year, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion released the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Written for use by health professionals and policy makers every 5 years, the Dietary Guidelines provide nutrition guidance for Americans ages 2 and older to prevent diet-related chronic disease and maintain health.

Healthy Eating Index

Healthy Eating IndexThe Healthy Eating Index (HEI) measures how the nation’s food choices align with the Dietary Guidelines. While the nation’s current HEI score—59 out of 100 (an improvement over previous years)—diet-related chronic disease rates over the last 25 years have risen and remain high. It follows that if we were to eat closer to the Dietary Guidelines and thereby increase our nation’s HEI scores closer to 100, we would see reductions in the prevalence of diet-related chronic disease.

The tool is being updated to reflect the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines released in January. In the meantime, the HEI has been used to monitor any defined set of foods including dietary intake data, menus at restaurants, and a market shopping basket of foods and can be applied to surveillance, policy, epidemiologic, clinical and behavioral research.

Over 200 scientific publications have featured the use of the HEI, a majority of which have examined the association between overall diet quality and health outcomes, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dental health, and ocular health.

National Nutrition Research Roadmap

Catherine Woteki, USDA chief scientist and under secretary for Research, Education & Economics, and co-chair of the Interagency Committee on Human Nutrition Research (ICHNR), described the first-ever National Nutrition Research Roadmap released the fourth of March, National Nutrition Month. 

The Roadmap will help guide government, academia, and the private sector to collaborate more effectively and productively on federally funded human nutrition research by identifying knowledge gaps and breakthrough opportunities. Accordingly, the Roadmap itself is the result of more than a year of collaboration among 10 different federal departments and agencies, more than 90 federal experts, and numerous public comments.

American consumers want to know which dietary choices will help them to be healthy and prevent chronic diseases, so research could have a profound impact on health and deliver large economic benefits to many societal, environmental, and economic challenges facing the U.S. and the world.

Nutritional needs differ according to a number of factors, including an individual’s age, health status, and their level of physical activity. Dietary guidance can be tailored to personal preferences so that individuals can make nutritional choices that are right for them. With this in mind, three overarching questions were identified in the Roadmap:

  1. How do we better understand and define eating patterns to improve and sustain health?
  2. What can be done to help people choose healthy eating patterns?
  3. How can we develop and engage innovative methods and systems to accelerate discoveries in human nutrition?

The Roadmap provides a subset of specific research areas for each question based on population impact, feasibility, and emerging scientific opportunity, with special consideration given to knowledge gaps (a) related to at-risk demographic groups such as pregnant women, children and older adults and (b) nutrition-related chronic diseases that contribute most to morbidity, mortality, and health disparities.

While the Roadmap focuses primarily on reducing nutrition related diseases in the US, it could also improve our understanding of nutrition’s role in optimal performance and military readiness, as well as guide other national governments, non-governmental organizations and collaborative global efforts to advance human nutrition research to improve and sustain health across the globe.

MyPlate, MyWins ChallengeUSDA MyPlate

On a personal note, if you need a little extra motivation to focus on building healthy eating habits, pledge to take the MyPlate, MyWins Challenge! It’s a fun and simple food and physical activity challenge available to SuperTracker groups.

All you have to do, according to Sarah Chang, nutritionist at USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, is

2 + 2 + 2:

  1. Eat 2 foods from each MyPlate food group
  2. And do 2 physical activities
  3. For 2 days

SuperTracker Groups

You can run your own MyPlate, MyWins Challenge for your family, colleagues, or community in five easy steps:SuperTracker

  1. Create a SuperTracker group – Watch this video for a step-by-step tutorial
  2. Invite others to join via email or with your group code at
  3. Create the MyPlate, MyWins Challenge for your group – Watch this video for a step-by-step tutorial
  4. Participants use the challenge Quick Tracker on your group page to record their foods and physical activities. They’ll earn points and get progress updates along the way.
  5. Check the challenge leaderboard to discover the winners!

Sarah’s MyPlate, MyWins Challenge Group!

Sarah's MyPlate, MyWinsIf you don’t want to create your own challenge group, join Chang at “Sarah’s MyPlate, MyWins Challenge Group!

Starting next Tuesday, March 22, eat two foods from each food group and do two physical activities each day. Log in to your SuperTracker account, and record them using the Quick Tracker on the group page to earn points and compete against others in the group.

The MyPlate, MyWins Challenge is one of several challenging consumer education initiatives, grounded in the most recent edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and available through USDA’s new online MyPlate Challenges.



U. S. Department of Agriculture, Roadmap Sets the Table for Nutrition Research, by Dr. Catherine Woteki, featured on Science Tuesday series on the USDA blog.

U. S. Department of Agriculture, The Healthy Eating Index: How Is America Doing?, by  TusaRebecca E. Schap.

U. S. Department of Agriculture, Pledge to Take the MyPlate, MyWins Challenge this March,  by Sarah Chang, MPH, RD, CNPP.

"Savor the Flavor" image, from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

All other images from U. S. Department of Agriculture.