September 13, 2016
2 min read

Discrete strategies to reduce unhealthy food choices may improve diet quality

You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact

Substituting energy intake from foods high in saturated fat, added sugars or salt with healthier foods may help improve overall diet quality in a general population and a population with self-reported diabetes, researchers reported at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes annual meeting.

“To effectively improve people’s dietary intake by targeting discretionary foods, it is likely that a combination of strategies will have the best outcome,” Tom Wycherley, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Public Health Research Group at the School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia in Adelaide, told Endocrine Today. “In general, the most effective use of time and resources is to target strategies at subpopulations or individuals with relative high intakes of discretionary foods or their constituents.”

Tom Wycherley
Tom Wycherley

Wycherley and colleagues evaluated data from the 2011 to 2013 Australian Health Survey on 12,153 people to determine the effect of key discrete strategies to reduce discretionary foods in diets. A subset of people with self-reported diabetes also was evaluated.

Researchers used the following modeled scenarios to simulate scenarios about the potential effect of key discrete strategies: reducing the daily intake of discretionary foods by 25%; replacing 25% of discretionary foods with core foods; substituting noncaloric beverages for all sugar-sweetened beverages; decreasing added sugar content of discretionary foods by 25%; and decreased sodium content of grain based on discretionary foods by 25%.

In the overall population, reducing the daily intake of discretionary foods by 25% reduced average per person daily energy intake by 9%. Intake of core foods was increased by 8.3%, energy intake was lowered by 3.6%, protein intake was increased by 2.3%, sugar intake was lowered by 20.6% and sodium intake was lowered by 3.9% when 25% of discretionary foods were replaced compared with the original diet. Energy was reduced by 2.9% and sugar intake was reduced by 27.3% when sugar-sweetened beverages were substituted with noncaloric beverages. Sodium intake was reduced by 2.9% when sodium content was reduced by 25%.

The subset of participants with self-reported diabetes reported a lower intake of discretionary foods compared with the overall population but experienced similar responses to the models as the overall population.

“We found that discrete strategies would typically have small to moderate impacts on the diet quality of the overall Australian population and those who self-report ever being told they had diabetes,” Wycherley told Endocrine Today. “In interpreting the findings from this study it is important to consider that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to improving someone’s dietary intake. Strategies need to be sustainable for the individual and in many cases will require a collaborative effort between food industry, nutritionists and public health advocates to implement on a broad scale.” – by Amber Cox


Wycherley TP, et al. Poster 702. Presented at: 52nd EASD Annual Meeting; Sept. 12-16, 2016; Munich.

Disclosure: Wycherley reports no relevant financial disclosures.