by James Ross
The FDA recently proposed major changes to its definition of ‘healthy,’ aiming to make
the term coincide with current Nutrition Facts labeling and better reflect current dietary science.
The current requirements for ‘healthy,’ which were established in 1994, focus on limiting total fat
and including minimum amounts of certain nutrients. The proposed rules, which are open for
public comment through December 28th, focus on incorporating healthy food groups, as opposed to having certain nutrients.
Based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, The FDA has determined six
food subgroups that comprise a ‘healthy’ diet. These subgroups are: raw fruits, raw vegetables,
grains, dairy, protein foods, and oils. Under the proposed rules, a product would need to be
comprised of certain amounts of these subgroups in order to be deemed ‘healthy.’ At the same
time, products would have to be under certain thresholds for saturated fat, sodium, and added
sugar. Rather than using across-the-board values, the thresholds for these three nutrients are
different for each of the six subgroups.
Under the proposed rules, products being labeled ‘healthy’ would have to fall into one of
six categories. Meals, main dishes, mixed foods, and individual foods would all be required to
contain certain amounts of some of the six food subgroups, while staying under thresholds for
the nutrients to limit. Whole, raw fruit and vegetables would both be considered healthy without
any additional criteria. The last product type, which also has no additional criteria, is water.
Based on the current guidelines, water can’t be called healthy due to a lack of nutrients.
So what would these changes mean? It would allow foods high in unsaturated fats, like
vegetable oils and some fish, to be labeled as ‘healthy.’ It would also stop highly sweetened and
fortified foods, like some yogurt and breakfast cereals, from being labeled as healthy. But most
importantly, it would make labeling much more complicated. That’s where MenuTrinfo ® comes
in. We will be submitting comments and following any changes made to the proposed rules. If
and when the proposed rules are enacted, we will be happy to help you navigate the new
In the meantime, feel free to reach out to me with any questions!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I’m James, I’m one of the Fulfillment Specialists on the MenuTrinfo® Nutrition Team. I went to Colorado State University here in Fort Collins, initially intending to only get a degree in Exercise Science. After taking and thoroughly enjoying two required nutrition classes, I decided to add a Human Nutrition minor.
I started working at MenuTrinfo® as an intern before the fall of my senior year, moved to a part time Fulfillment Specialist position in the spring, and came on full time last May after graduating. As part of the Nutrition Team, I’ve helped many clients with their labeling challenges and am very interested in seeing what the future of nutrition legislation holds!