Developing actionable dietary guidance messages: dietary fat as a case study

J Am Diet Assoc. 2001 Jun;101(6):678-84. doi: 10.1016/S0002-8223(01)00170-5.


Although consumers say they are concerned about nutrition and are aware that eating a healthful diet is important for good health, this knowledge does not always translate into healthful diet behaviors or motivate behavior change. In an effort to better understand consumer attitudes about nutrition and to explore alternatives for communicating dietary advice in language that is meaningful and motivates behavior change, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) conducted qualitative research with consumers (using focus groups) and registered dietitians (using telephone interviews) in 1998 and 1999. Results of the research are presented using dietary fat as a case study. Findings from the IFIC research were reported to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to assist the Committee in developing meaningful and action-oriented dietary advice related to dietary fat for inclusion in the 2000 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that would be motivating and easy for consumers to implement. The recommendation to moderate fat intake in the new dietary guideline, "Choose a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat" is consistent with communication recommendations in the IFIC research. Further, the moderate fat message is empowering because it suggests an achievable dietary regimen and reduces guilt and worry about foods. It allows flexibility to enjoy desired foods and promotes using common sense when it comes to diet. Several issues emerged from the IFIC research that apply to general nutrition communications with consumers, whether it be through national nutrition recommendations or in one-on-one counseling situations: to be effective, messages to consumers about nutrition, and specifically dietary fat, must address sources of discomfort about dietary choices; they must engender a sense of empowerment; and they should motivate both by providing clear information that propels toward taking action and appeals to the need to make personal choices.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diet / psychology*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dietetics*
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Health
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation


  • Dietary Fats