Wellness Begins with Me: A Dietitian’s Role in the Food Industry
The foods and beverages people choose can have a profound impact on their health.1 In order to “make every bite count”, one of the guidelines from the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages customizing nutrient- dense food choices to reflect personal preference.1 These guidelines, intended to help Americans maintain a healthy dietary pattern, provide a framework meant to be customized by personal choice.
Food choices can be influenced by a number of factors, and according to the most recent Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC), the top three drivers of purchase among consumers are taste, price, and healthfulness.2 In order for consumers to make informed choices at the point of purchase, they rely on mandatory product features like the product name, ingredient statement, nutrition facts, and claims, which are regulated by the FDA and USDA. Understanding those regulations is key to my role as a dietitian in the food industry.
Like most dietitians, I began my career in a more traditional role but have worked in a variety of settings over the years. This year I celebrated my 10th anniversary as a dietitian at Tyson Foods, Inc.! As I celebrate this milestone anniversary, I also celebrate that while my skillset as a dietitian has evolved, my desire to play a role impacting the wellness of others has always remained the same.
Industry dietitians have a unique opportunity to impact wellness among a wide audience. As the source of evidence- based nutrition information for food companies, we have the potential to influence the foods that millions of people eat every day! Here’s a sneak peek at the roles dietitians have throughout the stages of product development!
Before consumers drop one of our products into their grocery cart, someone on our team is responsible for creating and reviewing the nutrition facts panel, evaluating the product for any relevant nutrition claims, and helping to ensure the accuracy of the food allergen labeling. Pretty cool, huh?
Part of our role also revolves around communicating nutrition science effectively. Packaging claims are one way to communicate with consumers and can be helpful in quickly identifying food items that fit well within a specific lifestyle. As advertising content and packaging claims are created, we work closely with our regulatory and law teams to ensure nutrition related communications are substantiated in science and facts.
Throughout the product development stage, our team interacts with food scientists, culinary team members, packaging, insights, sensory and regulatory experts. As dietitians, we play a role in helping to balance nutrition trends and insights with labeling regulations to help transform new product ideas into great foods.
As consumer behaviors and eating patterns change, our approach to health and wellness as nutrition professionals remains the same: All foods can fit into an overall healthy eating pattern. Wellness begins with all of us.
U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition.
International Food Information Council. 2022 Food and Health Survey. 18 May 2022.
Monica Stewart, MS, RD, LD Sr. Food Scientist I
Tyson Foods, Inc.