The Story of Colorful Choices

by Dean Witherspoon

Nutrition is a little like politics: people get really worked up about the “rightness” of their position. And they especially get defensive about things they’ve come to believe because the USDA, Dietetic Association, or American Heart Association says this or that is the right way to eat.

Then you point out that in many world cultures, individual morbidity and mortality are lower than in the US and their diets don’t come close to these supposed best practice recommendations. So they get even more defensive, suggesting there’s some other explanation for the discrepancy — or simply that Americans aren’t following their own authoritative guidelines. Given that much is true, does it really matter what the guidelines say? If we can’t get people to follow them, what good are they?

So we set out to create a nutrition program that people would follow, while avoiding the controversy and emotion. Our goal wasn’t to create the definitive campaign that solved all of modern society’s nutrition challenges, but to design something simple, effective, and fun that shifted eating patterns in a healthier direction. We wanted something that nearly everyone could do without concern for calories, fat grams, weighing or measuring, point systems, exchanges, and all the other things typically associated with a nutrition program that no one ever continues after it ends.

The result is Colorful Choices: It inspires participants to eat a minimum of 3 vegetable servings and 2 fruit servings each day across the rainbow of colors — and in doing so, achieve a healthier overall diet than 80% of the US population. The outcomes have been nothing less than stunning: 100% increase in produce consumption/participant (from 2.5 servings to 5 servings a day) and 82% eating more healthfully as a result of participating in Colorful Choices.

Keep It Simple

We occasionally run into a potential client who thinks the program wouldn’t do enough to reinforce overall healthy diet. They suggest that people need to be more aware of good fats, bad fats, calories, protein, fiber, dairy, etc., etc., etc. We ask why? If we can get participants to put produce first, if we can get them to eat 3 or more vegetable servings and up to 2 fruit servings a day, won’t their diet automatically improve? Isn’t that the goal? Do they really want or need to know the USDA guidelines for this or that?

To prove to ourselves that we hadn’t just gotten lucky with a few dozen clients and about 10,000 participants, we went back and researched the healthy eating patterns that produced the lowest rates of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions in various populations. The result is a white paper we published in 2011, Produce First: The Compelling Case for Simplifying Workplace Nutrition Programs, which references more than 20 studies supporting the Colorful Choices model. It dispels the myth that healthy eating needs to be complicated. And it highlights the original wisdom and simplicity of the 5 a Day for Better Health message promoted by the CDC and the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

If you want a program that works because it’s simple and fun, take a look at our and sign up for a no-obligation Colorful Choices demo today.