By Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD
We all know, pretty much, what healthy means, right? Per the dictionary, something is healthy if it is “indicative of, conducive to, or promoting good health”. The great thing about a term like this is its simplicity. If we all have the same basic definition for healthy, we can easily decide what foods we should eat more often and what foods we should only eat on occasion. The word healthy is helpful when making food choices.
That’s where the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can help. The FDA is charged with regulating labeling and packaging to ensure that manufacturers aren’t making misleading claims about their products. Many terms are already regulated, such as “heart healthy”, “low sodium”, and “light.” The term “healthy” has also been regulated.
In the past, some nutrient-packed foods like peanuts, salmon, and avocados (among others) weren’t allowed to be labeled as healthy because of the strict nutrient profiles used to determine what can be officially called healthy – and what cannot. These beloved foods – those foods high in good, unsaturated fats – were often not allowed to be called healthy because they contained too much fat, too much saturated fat, or not enough of some other key nutrients, according to FDA. Thanks to evolving nutrition science, FDA is reconsidering their definition of healthy and making some positive steps along the way. FDA uses the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, based on nutrition science, as one of the tools to help direct their work.
The FDA is in the process of revising their definition of healthy and they want your feedback! You can share your opinion at the FDA website http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm520695.htm.
As FDA works to incorporate the latest nutrition science into their definition, we can take heart that the official definition, when translated to labeling, will help us make healthy food choices. Meanwhile, peanut-lovers rejoice because interim guidance from FDA now allows nutrient-packed peanuts to be called healthy – and because I couldn’t agree more, I can shout it from the rooftop!