Oldways Common Ground
Consensus Statement on Healthy Eating

At the Oldways Finding Common Ground conference in Boston, MA on November 17-18, 2015, a group of leading nutrition and food systems experts reached consensus on the following points of common ground about healthy eating, as outlined below (or download PDF here):

  1. More Plants, Nuts, Legumes, Seafood. The Scientists of Oldways Common Ground lend strong, collective support to the food-based recommendations of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and to the DGAC’s endorsement of healthy food patterns such as the Mediterranean Diet, Vegetarian Diet and Healthy American Diet.
    The overall body of evidence examined by the 2015 DGAC identifies that a healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meats; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains. Additional strong evidence shows that it is not necessary to eliminate food groups or conform to a single dietary pattern to achieve healthy dietary patterns. Rather, individuals can combine foods in a variety of flexible ways to achieve healthy dietary patterns, and these strategies should be tailored to meet the individual’s health needs, dietary preferences and cultural traditions. Current research also strongly demonstrates that regular physical activity promotes health and reduces chronic disease risk. (Source: 2015 DGAC summary wording)
  2. Sustainability is essential. We emphatically support the inclusion of sustainability in the 2015 DGAC report, and affirm the appropriateness and importance of this imperative in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans because food insecurity cannot be solved without sustainable food systems. Inattention to sustainability is willful disregard for the quality and quantity of food available to the next generation, i.e., our own children.
  3. A transparent process, beyond politics. The Scientists of Oldways Common Ground lend strong, collective support to the overall process, as well as the overall product, of the 2015 DGAC. We express confidence in their approach to the weight of evidence. We support a transparent process where the evidence-based report of the scientists is translated directly into policy without political manipulation.
  4. Good x 3. Food can and should be:
    • Good for human health
    • Good for the planet (sustainability; ecosystem conservation; biodiversity)
    • And simply…good – unapologetically delicious.
  5. Common Ground over confusion. We express strong concern for the high level of apparent confusion prevailing, and propagated among the public about what constitutes a healthy eating pattern. Despite uncertainty about some details, much of this confusion is unnecessary, and at odds with the understanding of experts and the weight of evidence. We affirm that experts with diverse perspectives and priorities can find common ground. 
  6. Solid evidence, of all kinds. Fundamentals and current understanding do NOT change every time a new study makes headlines. The Oldways Common Ground Scientists emphasize the importance of basing understanding of diet and health on the weight of evidence, including ALL relevant research methods. Biology (adaptation, evolution, plausibility) is a relevant source of evidence. Heritage (cultural traditions) are an additional, relevant source of real-world information on long-term feasibility and health effects of diet.
  7. Avoid sensationalism. Representations of new diet studies to the public should be made in the context of the prevailing consensus. New evidence should be added to what was known before, not substituted for it sequentially. Accurate reporting is the responsibility of both scientists and the media.
  8. Compared to what? To make recommendations for dietary changes meaningful, we strongly endorse the general principle of specifying practical dietary substitutions – a “compared to what” approach. e.g, Instead of simply saying, “Drink less soda,” for instance, say “Drink water instead of soda.” What we consume and what we don’t consume instead, both contribute to health outcomes.
  9. From rules to practical tools. Oldways Common Ground Scientists recommend that education programming, policy, and legislation in support of these goals be implemented widely and in a timely manner, with regular monitoring and evaluation. For example, in the U.S., we urge compliance with 7 USC Sec. 5341, which calls for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to “be promoted by each Federal agency in carrying out any Federal food, nutrition, or health program” – including food assistance programs.l
  10. Food Literacy. We support the cultivation of widespread “food literacy” and believe that individuals benefit from becoming knowledgeable about the origins of their food, the conditions under which it is produced, and its impact on their health and the health of the planet. A knowledge of and respect for food traditions and the cultural context of food – health through heritage – is also beneficial, and can be a powerful motivator for better eating, as well as a means of imparting crucial life skills (e.g., cooking).
  11. Food Systems. Oldways Common Ground Scientists agree that food systems (production, manufacture, food waste, etc.) should align with priorities for human and planetary health while supporting social responsibility/justice and animal welfare. Diverse, localized/regionalized  solutions, that reflect site-specific priorities and capabilities are more resilient and democratic. Each of us has a role to play in ensuring a healthy and sustainable global food supply.

Scientific Consensus Committee


David Katz, MD, MPH, Founding Director, Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, Yale University (New Haven, CT)

Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition; Chairman of the Department of Nutrition, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)


Steven Abrams, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Dell Medical School, University of Texas (Austin, TX)

Sara Baer-Sinnott, President, Oldways (Boston, MA)

Neal Barnard, MD, President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine (Washington, DC)

S. Boyd Eaton, MD, Professor Emeritus, Emory University (Atlanta, GA)

Alessio Fasano, MD, Director, Center for Celiac Research; Chief, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition and Associate Chief, Department of Pediatrics, Basic, Clinical and Translational Research, Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

Christopher Gardner, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine (Stanford, CA)

Frank Hu, MD, PhD, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

David Jenkins, MD, DSc, PhD, Professor, Department of Medicine and Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto; Scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital; Director, Risk Factor Modification Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital (Toronto, Ontario, CA)

Tom Kelly, PhD, Chief Sustainability Officer, Sustainability Institute at University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH)

Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, MD, MPH, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain)

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, Dean, Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy (Boston, MA)

Malden Nesheim, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Nutrition and Provost Emeritus, Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)

Dean Ornish, MD, Founder and President, Preventive Medicine Research Institute; Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco (Sausalito, CA)

Simon Poole, MBBS, DRCOG, Medical Practitioner and Commentator (Cambridge, UK)

Eric Rimm, ScD, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and Director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Loma Linda University School of Public Health (Loma Linda, CA)

Meir Stampfer, MD, DrPH, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Antonia Trichopoulou, MD, PhD, President, Hellenic Health Foundation and Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Nutrition at the School of Medicine, University of Athens (Athens, Greece)

Additional Signatories

Carrie Dennett, MPH, RDN, CD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Menu for Change / Seattle Times nutrition columnist

Sidney Fry, MS, RD, Nutrition Editor, Cooking Light Magazine

Timi Gustafson, RD, LDN, FAND, Registered Dietitian and President of Solstice Publications, LLC

Janis Jibrin, MS, RD, Nutrition Writer and Consultant

Ellie Krieger, MS, RDN, TV host, Washington Post columnist and cookbook author

Kathy McManus, MS, RD, LDN, Director, Dept. of Nutrition, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Rosie Schwartz, RD, Registered Dietitian, Nutrition Guidance Services, Inc.

Brierley Wright, MS, RD, Nutrition Editor, EatingWell Magazine

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Nutrition Consultant and Communicator