By visualizing the quality of the American diet and exploring findings from the Healthy-Eating Index-2010 (HEI-2010), researchers and the public can both benefit, according to a new white paper.
“Visualizing Diet Quality at Multiple Levels of the Food Stream” uses HEI-2010 – a scoring metric developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) – to assess diet quality in relation to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). It is the latest installment in a series of communication products developed by the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research in conjunction with NCI.
The products, which include a video, infographic series, fact sheet, and photo series, each help translate findings published online in the November issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The photo series and companion white paper closely examine the U.S. food stream, or the flow of foods from agricultural production, through processing, and distribution channels, to the food that ends up on our plates. They depict “current” and “improved” diet quality at the national, community, and individual levels. At the individual level, the photo series illustrates changes in diet quality for meals consumed over the course of a day. The highest scoring menu, is designed to reflect what each meal would look like if it met the DGA recommendations.
“The photo series can serve as an educational tool to help the general public distinguish between higher and lower quality diets,” said lead author Julia Strasser of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University. By highlighting the disconnect between the DGA and the availability of healthy foods within the food stream, the photo series may also help policy makers identify opportunities for improvement related to food availability, food production, and food importing and exporting.
To raise awareness of the journal findings and all of the NCCOR Healthy Eating Index communication products, NCCOR conducted targeted outreach in late 2014 to key influencers. The products were shared on a number of websites, blogs, and newsletters including Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Childhood Obesity Weekly Policy Update, Healthy Eating Research, Salud Today!, Active Living Research, and the U.S. Food Policy Blog. Approximately 4,800 individuals were reached via social media.
In fall 2015, USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will publish the updated DGA. Once the guidelines are published, NCI scientists will update the Healthy Eating Index to continue tracking the impact of the food stream on diet quality in the United States.