Author: Amy Glueck
Published: Monday, November 21, 2011
We know many of the barriers that halt our patients and clients from committing to dietary and lifestyle changes that we educate them on. They include limited access to food, unwillingness to change, lack of knowledge, etc. Barriers also include knowledge base and where consumers receive their information. Times have changed and that includes where consumers learn about nutrition. In the ADA’s Nutrition and You: Trends 2011, surveys showed that consumers are receiving their nutrition information from television (67%), magazines (41%), and the Internet (40%). Technology is not the only thing that has changed through the years; the food guide has changed too. Did you know that the food guide has been updated and changed seven times since the first food guide was created in 1916?
I worked a health fair representing the City of St. Louis Department of Health, Nutrition Services, with Mrs. Melissa Ramel, MPH, RD, LD, and Saint Louis University faculty member, on Tuesday, November 8th . The health fair was only for St. Louis city employees which involved a population of economically diverse individuals. We had a busy and exciting four hours at the health fair. We presented two recipes and gave out enormous amounts of nutrition information.
As our participants made their way throughout the health fair, they were granted stamps for each vendor they visited. An incentive was provided for the raffle winner who provided a “passport” completed with all of the vendors’ stamps. This created quite a bit of traffic to our table besides the amazing recipes consisting of Fruit and Yogurt Dip and Southwestern Black-Eyed Pea and Corn Salad we provided. Some people approached our table and wanted to talk while others ran away quickly.
Once we had them hooked, we would give them the opportunity to answer a nutrition question in return for a prize. Most of the time, we prompted the person if they would like to answer the question. Several people of which declined immediately and walked away! If they didn’t walk away, most were hesitant to answer until informed that the answers may have been on a handout on the table directly in front of them. We asked them what the five food groups were and some participants had some difficulty. Now, I had no idea that the USDA food guide had changed eight times in the past 95 years. For the population we were working with, that includes about 5 different food guides not including the newly introduced MyPlate. This creates a great deal of consumer confusion. Here’s a brief history of the food guides throughout the past 50 years:
Food for Fitness, A Daily Food Guide (Basic Four)
Hassle-Free Daily Food Guide
Food Wheel: A Pattern for Daily Food Choices
Food Guide Pyramid
My Pyramid Food Guidance System
As you can see, throughout the years consumers have seen many changes to the food guide. This can create quite a bit of uncertainty and confusion when it comes to the food groups. Groups have changed along with the visual that provides the guide for them. You can’t blame them for being hesitant when asked to name the five food groups for the 2011 update.
What does this mean for us as RDs?
Consumer confusion is going to be very prevalent in the older population that we see hospitalized in the next few years. The best we can do is to be understanding of their nutrition knowledge background. Keep the historical guides in the back of your mind for when you are educating a patient so that you have an idea of what they remember about the food groups. We can also try to promote the updated guide, MyPlate, as much as possible. Not many consumers are aware of the new visual and changes being that it is so new. Provide handouts to patients and clients and give them as much information as possible about the new update. Assess and evaluate their understanding and educate them further based upon those criteria.
Don’t forget to promote MyPlate to the students in your nutrition education lessons. The students we teach this year will remember MyPlate like our current clients recall the Basic Four!