Last month, I was watching TV with a friend when a PSA came on for “Black History Month.” He expressed some disdain, remarking that, “Every month should be Black History Month.” While this started a rich discussion examining the slights and prejudices he experiences almost daily as an African American and my perceptions on the resurgence of anti-Semitism, it still made me think ahead to this month and the far more benign National Nutrition Month.
The annual promotional program (which started as National Nutrition Week 46 years ago) was created to encourage people to eat better. Well, I think every month should be National Nutrition Month. But to promote better eating habits that incorporate “better” foods and beverages, it is critical to have any publicly promoted nutrition message be based solidly on science.
To that end, as promoters of National Nutrition Month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) should be at the forefront of composing, guiding, and helping monitor nutrition messages. When my friend and fellow “guyititian” David Grotto ran for a position on the board of directors for AND, his platform included acknowledgement that it is critical the Academy get back to endorsing only science-based messages. IMHO, the Academy’s promotions for this year’s National Nutrition Month still include some fails in this regard, most especially the inclusion of the old canon of fat demonization.
To its credit, the AND also addresses food waste this year. Is food waste “off message” for a group devoted to nutrition? Not when you consider that the pathway from farm to table has such a profound impact on how and what we eat. A huge portion of the food waste generated in this country is so-called “ugly produce” and its distribution helps get more produce into the hands of families that might not otherwise have the ability or access to include more fruits and vegetables in their diet.
On a similar sustainability note, although the end of the year is my usual time for predictions, there’s a potential emerging trend I want to call out. I’ve been writing for a few years now about microalgae, duckweed, spirulina, and other aquatic and semi-aquatic sources of high-powered nutrition. Add seaweed to the list.
Seaweed as an ingredient used in foods and beverages – beyond nori and carrageenan — looks as if it is about to make a big splash in the next year or two (the recent growth of seaweed in snacks and chips being just a start). High in protein, vitamins, minerals, omega fats, and other nutritious compounds, seaweed has been enjoyed in Asia for thousands of years. Expect to see cost-effective, readily available, renewable, sustainable seaweed put to use in plant-based meat analogs and other formulations marching into the mainstream.