Washington State Nutrition & Physical Activity Plan
Nutrition Objective I

Increase Access To Health Promoting Foods

In 2005, about half of Washington adults said they ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are part of a science-based system to provide the most up-to-date advice about diet and health in the United States. The 2005 guidelines recommend eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy and meats, whole grains, and healthy fats within caloric needs while limiting intake of unhealthy fats, added sugars, sodium and alcohol.(1) People who follow the dietary guidelines are at lower risk for overweight and obesity, and chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.(2,3,4,5) However, the diets of most Washington residents vary substantially from the recommendations.

Families and Individuals

Families and individuals choose diets that reflect the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, when they have:

  • Access to healthy foods at school, work, and in the community.
  • Enough money to buy the kinds of foods recommended in the guidelines.
  • Knowledge about nutrition.
  • Motivation to choose healthy foods.
  • Confidence that they can cook healthy foods.
  • Healthy foods in their homes and daily environments.
  • Social, cultural and family support for eating healthfully.
  • Eating patterns that include frequent meals with family and/or friends eating together.

Supporting Healthy Eating

Although dietary advice and interventions to increase nutrition knowledge, motivation, and cooking skills can help people eat better, dietary intake is also strongly influenced by social, economic, and cultural factors.(6) Most people base their food choices on taste, cost, and convenience.(7) Many foods recommended in the dietary guidelines, like whole grains and some fruits and vegetables, are more expensive than highly processed foods that have sugar and fat as main ingredients. Foods like fresh and attractive fruits and vegetables may be harder to find in low-income neighborhoods. The following recommendations can help individuals and families make healthy food choices.

See Appendix G: For Information on Defining Healthy Foods.


Strategies for Success

Cultural Competence

Healthy foods are produced by American Indian tribal organizations in Washington State. For example, Quinault Pride Seafood exports salmon products that are high in healthy omega three fatty acids and a good source of protein. 

Yakama Indian Nation's Tribal Land Enterprise exports apples and cherries and has been a model tribal program since 1950.

Tribal elders and native plant specialists collaborate on the Native Plant Program at Northwest Indian College in Bellingham. This program is designed to reestablish native food systems in 10 tribes around Puget Sound through education directed to cultural specialists, nutritionists, cooks and tribal members about the benefits of native foods.

Communication

Use marketing strategies to encourage purchases of healthy foods.

Health communications and marketing campaigns using billboards, in-store sales, and targeted consumer coupons have been successful in increasing sales of fruits and vegetables in retail stores . These strategies should involve reducing the cost of fruits and vegetables, increasing convenience within a community, or enhancing the flavor and taste of fruits and vegetables.