Top Nutritionists Agreed on 11 Key Elements of Healthy Eating

They reached a consensus at last week's Common Ground Conference in Boston.

The nutrition world is rife with contradictory advice about what is and is not good for us, making it near impossible for the everyday health junkie to answer a seemingly simple question: What constitutes a healthy diet?

Oldways, a local food education non-profit, grew tired of wading through the muck. At last week’s Finding Common Ground Conference in Boston, the organization brought together a team of some of the country’s top nutrition scientists and tasked them with agreeing upon a clear, universal message about how to eat well. The result was an 11-point consensus statement, emphasizing, among other things, the following:

  1. We need to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts. We should be consuming less dairy, red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened food and drinks, alcohol, and refined grains.
  2. We should not be reactionary when it comes to new research; we must view nutrition studies in the context of all past understandings. If something has been collectively deemed “bad for you,” replace it with something that’s “good for you,” instead of further limiting your diet.
  3. We should generally follow the guidelines of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which supports the Mediterranean, Vegetarian, and Healthy American Diets.
  4. We need more transparent and sustainable food sources.
  5. Food can and should be healthy, eco-friendly, and delicious.

While none of these findings are particularly shocking, it’s not without significance that a room full of diverse, opinionated food scientists unanimously agreed upon a short list of priorities. In today’s climate of frequent disagreement—“Ninety minutes into the meeting, we were still trying to agree what the hell a vegetable was,” Yale researcher David Katz told STAT—Oldways hopes this feat will further encourage the public to put healthy diet staples on the front burner.

In line with the experts’ focus on media clarity, Oldways has also set up a “matchmaking” service to put journalists in touch with nutrition experts. The service, Oldways Media Clearinghouse, aims to break down all the complicated details that can get lost in translation at press time.

You can view the full Common Ground consensus statements here.