WASHINGTON –Processed meat and poultry products currently consumed regularly by Americans can fit into a healthy balanced diet, according to a new menu model analysis developed by a team of nutrition experts. Comments on these findings were submitted by the American Meat Institute to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC).

AMI explains its menu model analysis used the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans requirements for macro- and micronutrients and food groups based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet. The model incorporated commonly consumed foods and meals found in a typical American diet including food eaten away from home, plus traditional and better-for-you choices, which are easy to find options in local grocery stores.

Diets that include processed meats, even consumed twice daily for a week, allow consumers to stay within daily calorie goals, and daily goals for nutrients to limit, while meeting or exceeding needs for nutrients that should be encouraged, the model demonstrated. The model shows proper portion size and smart choices, which still allows for consumers to continue enjoying foods such as chocolate and red wine, while helping them build an overall healthy dietary pattern that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, AMI relayed.

“If nutritional guidance is to truly impact the healthfulness of Americans, it needs to address how to improve the food choices they already make, not an idealistic version of an eating pattern that bears no resemblance to the average eating patterns of Americans,” the AMI said.

AMI also detailed consumer research showing consumers want guidance, but dislike prescriptive advice. A 2013 poll conducted by the Univ. of Chicago-based NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found 83 percent of those surveyed were in favor of the government providing nutritional guidelines and information about how to make healthy choices for themselves. By contrast, another poll found little support for policies that would constrain consumer choice, like bans.

AMI said a recent commentary in Childhood Obesity argued that forced eating behaviors of foods that are not enjoyed can actually increase interest in the restricted food

Nutrition data must be used that is based on the current state of product formulation. An AMI member survey found that 70 percent of respondents were actively involved in reformulating products to reduce nutrients like sodium, while 50 percent already offer products that qualify as healthy.

“DGAC needs to recognize the current consumption patterns and up-to-date marketplace data as they finalize their recommendations,” AMI said.

“Dietary guidance should be practical, affordable and attainable. Recognizing the eating patterns of the average American and providing information on how they can eat a more healthful diet within the context of their existing food choices is critical. Demonstrating that all foods, including meat, poultry and processed meats, can fit in a balanced diet will lead to consumers making more healthful choices. These types of actionable recommendations could lead to measurable public health improvements,” AMI concluded.