(Oct. 1) The challenge for the U.S. government is not to set a higher dietary recommendation for fruits and vegetables, but to motivate Americans to follow the recommendation.

That comment was part of the input that Elizabeth Pivonka, president of the Produce For Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, Del., provided to government officials as they finalize recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

Dietary guidance for Americans is updated every five years, and scientific recommendations from the committee will form the basis of the new guidelines from the government, which are expected early next year.

Soon after, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will release a new version of its graphic for food guidance, which in current form is the food pyramid.

In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services dated Sept. 27, Pivonka said that PBH strongly supports the committee’s recommendation that consumers eat five to 13 fruit and vegetable servings a day.

“The real challenges come in translating the broader recommendations into actionable steps that consumers can understand and apply,” she wrote.

PBH provided recommendations that the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services — agencies that jointly appointed the dietary guidelines advisory committee — to use in preparing consumer education efforts.

Pivonka urged the agencies to:

  • Emphasize nutrient density and the unique role of fruits and vegetables in weight management.

  • Dispel consumer fears about the new higher fruit and vegetable number.

  • Use household measures to help communicate serving sizes. Pivonka said that many consumers should be educated how a serving size would translate in common measures for a list of popular fruits and vegetables.

  • Communicate that most Americans would likely need about eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Not many Americans need to eat 13 servings a day, though Pivonka said it wouldn’t hurt.

  • Communicate that consumers need to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Pivonka said that six foods (potatoes, canned tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, apples, oranges and bananas) make up about half of all the fruits and vegetables currently consumed. She said more variety is needed to meet key nutrient needs.

  • Educate consumers about the affordability of fruits and vegetables. Pivonka said that Americans can meet their fruit and vegetable needs for less than a dollar a day.