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2010-2011: The biggest nutrition news stories

Editor's note: The following column is from Healthy Dining, a company that has been at the forefront of restaurant nutrition since 1990. This series provides restaurant operators with information on industry-related nutrition topics. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Nation's Restaurant News.

In the past two years, there have been major nutrition-related announcements that affect, or have the potential to affect, the restaurant industry in significant ways. Many restaurants are embracing this nutrition-focused era by creating new options and reformulating to please their guests with menu choices that combine health appeal with plenty of great flavor.

Next year on you’ll hear from influential leaders in the health and restaurant arenas about what they predict for the New Year, for now here is a look back at the biggest nutrition stories impacting the industry:

January 2010: American Heart Association announces sodium reduction guidelines
The American Heart Association (AHA) announced that all Americans should reduce their sodium intake to no more than 1500 mg. per day, a decrease of 35% over the longstanding guideline of 2300 mg. per day for those without hypertension or cardiovascular diseases. The AHA report stated that sodium consumption is currently more than two times higher than the recommended upper limit of 1,500 mg daily, with 77 percent of that consumption coming from packaged, processed and restaurant foods.

February 2010: First Lady launches Let’s Move!
First Lady Michelle Obama announced the nationwide initiative Let’s Move aimed at fighting childhood obesity within a generation. The campaign aims to engage every sector impacting the health of children to achieve the eradication of childhood obesity.

March 2010: Healthcare reform bill passes with national menu labeling provisions
The nationwide menu labeling bill officially passed as part of the larger health care reform bill. This new legislation, which applies to restaurants with 20+ locations within the U.S., will pre-empt the regional and state-based regulations that have been causing havoc for chains operating in multiple jurisdictions.

April 2010: Institute of Medicine releases sodium reduction report
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, “Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States" is significant for the food and restaurant industries because it outlines a long-term, collaborative solution to reducing America’s high intake of sodium. The collaboration implies a commitment to action by America’s restaurants. The report emphasizes the need for “an overall reduction of the level of sodium in the food supply—that is, the level of sodium to which consumers are exposed on a daily basis from processed and restaurant foods.”

May 2010: Food companies pledge to reduce 1.5 trillion calories by 2015
The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF) joined First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America to announce a pledge by many large food companies to collaborate to reduce annual calories by 1.5 trillion by the end of 2015 and sustain that level.

August 2010: Food and Drug Administration issues draft of menu labeling guidance
The FDA issued a draft guidance document for the foodservice industry regarding the implementation of new menu labeling legislation passed in March as part of the health care reform bill. The document was released to ensure that the agency consider public comments before finalizing the regulations.

September 2010: First Lady addresses the restaurant industry
First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the National Restaurant Association’s Board of Directors in Washington, D.C. “Restaurants remain an incredibly dynamic part of our American story,” the First Lady said. “I've been so pleased to hear about what some of you are doing already, both in working with us and on your own. Together, we can help make sure that every family that walks into a restaurant can make an easy, healthy choice.”

October 2010: Nation’s Restaurant News, American Express and Healthy Dining launch nutrition hub for industry
The ‘Nutrition News and Insights’ platform provides restaurant operators with strategies, best practices and ‘how-tos’ for today’s most pressing nutrition issues affecting the industry. Topics include: complying with new menu labeling regulations, reducing sodium, calories and fat, improving the healthfulness of kids’ meals, offering a gluten free menu, and capitalizing on the growing wellness trends. The new resource is located at and

November 2010: New ‘Sodium Savvy’ platform features 60 brands and 10,000 locations nationwide
To promote the industry’s proactive efforts and help guests find lower-sodium options available at restaurants nationwide, HEALTHY DINING launched a ‘Sodium Savvy’ initiative. The new ‘Sodium Savvy’ feature on showcases sixty restaurant brands, representing close to 10,000 locations coast to coast, each offering a selection of entrées that contain 750 mg. of sodium or less and/or side dishes, appetizers or desserts that contain 250 mg. of sodium or less.

January 2011: New dietary guidelines for Americans announced
The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released in January 2011, focus on balancing calories with physical activity, and encourage Americans to consume more healthful foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains.

April 2011: FDA published draft of proposed menu labeling rules
The FDA released the highly anticipated proposed rules for menu labeling on April 1st with a 60-day comment period. The FDA stated that it anticipated publishing the final rule by the end of 2011 with compliance expected sometime mid to end of year 2012. The National Restaurant Association and National Council of Chain Restaurants collaboratively submitted a 62-page document with comments regarding the proposed rules.

June 2011: New ‘MyPlate’ icon replaces 20 year food pyramid
The First Lady Michelle Obama unveils the new ‘MyPlate’ food icon, marking a turning point for how nutrition will be etched in the minds and guide the appetites of millions of Americans, from preschoolers to college graduates to grandparents. The colorful ‘MyPlate’ graphic serves as a visual cue to help Americans easily identify the best foods to build a healthy meal. The new ‘MyPlate’ icon replaces two decades of the Food Pyramid first released in 1992.

July 2011: Groundbreaking Kids LiveWell program launched
The National Restaurant Association, in collaboration with, unveiled a nationwide initiative that provides parents and children with a growing selection of healthful menu options when dining out, as well as highlighting how restaurants are creating innovative solutions to provide better-for-you menu options. Kids LiveWell is a first-of-its-kind voluntary initiative that shows the restaurant industry’s commitment to offering healthful menu items for children, with a focus on increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy, and limiting unhealthy fats, sugars and sodium.

October 2011: The National Restaurant Association opposes The Working Group marketing guidelines
In April 2011, The Interagency Working Group on Food Marketing to Children issued voluntary principles to guide industry self-regulation and provided a comment period. In October, a joint hearing entitled, “Food Marketing: Can 'Voluntary' Government Restrictions Improve Children's Health?” was held. The National Restaurant Association stated, “We are pleased that Working Group members have considered stakeholders’ comments since first proposing these severe marketing restrictions. Nevertheless, we remain concerned that the Working Group’s nutrition guidelines contradict established nutrition principles and ban marketing of many healthful products. We believe IWG should withdraw the recommendations and conduct the study first required by Congress.”

November 2011: Efforts by American Public Health Association & FDA to reduce sodium in food supply
The American Public Health Association (APHA) released a sodium-related resolution on November 1, 2011 that echoes the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommendations released in 2010. APHA is urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove the GRAS (generally recommended as safe) status of sodium and to regulate the amount of sodium permitted in processed and restaurant foods as soon as possible. Ten days later, a public forum was held in the Washington DC area, initiated by the FDA along with several other influential health organizations, to discuss nationwide sodium reduction.

About the author: Anita Jones-Mueller, MPH, is president and founder of Healthy Dining. She is a nationally recognized authority who brings to market innovative nutrition-related strategies to help restaurants prosper while educating and empowering Americans to enjoy healthier cuisine. Contact her at [email protected].

TAGS: Food Trends
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