Since one popular New Year resolution is to lose weight, it seems appropriate that the government issued the first draft of its updated dietary guidelines in January. The 71-page report recommended Americans increase their intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and low- and non-fat dairy products.

At about the same time, Kraft Foods Inc. announced initiatives to highlight nutritious products in its massive portfolio. The company used nutrition criteria described in the guidelines, as well as information derived from other public health entities, to design its new “Sensible Solution” labeling program. Products meeting certain nutritional criteria will feature an on-package flag; the program will launch in April.

Also, in U.S. media targeted to children between six and 11, Kraft will change its focus to items that have the Sensible Solution flag. Popular items such as Kool-Aid drinks; Oreo and Chips Ahoy! cookies; certain Post cereals and Lunchables lunch combos no longer will be advertised to those children, but existing products qualifying for the flag, such as Sugar-Free Kool-Aid beverages, Lunchables Fun Pack Chicken Dunks and 1/2 the Sugar Fruity Pebbles cereal still will be featured. The company will continue not advertising in media with main audiences of children under the age of six. However, its wide range of products will be advertised in media targeted to adult and family audiences.

For those unable to make healthy food choices on their own, the vending industry is trying to make it as easy as wearing Garanimals clothing. Last month, the National Automatic Merchandising Association launched an anti-obesity marketing campaign, in an effort to curb the enthusiasm to remove vending machines from schools, and to improve the industry's image. Many view vending machines as a culprit in the childhood obesity epidemic.

The organization makes available to schools a computer software program (developed by a hospital) that rates the healthfulness of foods by color. Each food rating is based on calories, fat, sugar, protein, fiber, calcium, iron and certain vitamins. The foods are rated by points and then assigned one of three colors. Foods coded red are “choose rarely,” while yellow means “choose occasionally,” and foods marked green are considered a “best choice” and can be eaten more often.

For those experiencing weight problems, manufacturers and associations are offering help. Once again, the food industry shows it can rise to meet consumer demands, and help in controlling weight continues to be the order of the day.