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ICYMI: Shoddy Science Shields Paternalistic Pop Tax

Americans for Food and Beverage Choice

A recent street survey recently grabbed national headlines by claiming a grocery tax in Berkeley caused soda consumption to drop considerably. While we all know that shock value, alarmist headlines, and misinformation run rampant in the online news landscape, many readers do not evaluate the methodology or science behind the click bait.

Luckily, Julie Kelly and Jeff Stier set the record straight on this particular survey for a piece featured in RealClearHealth. As they note, the report in question was not evidence that the tax was working and the methodology used was “inherently suspect” by admission of the researchers themselves. According to Kelly and Stier, “The headlines not only sounded too good to be true, but an actual reading, let alone analysis, of the study showed they were completely wrong.”

So the next time something sounds too good to be true, it just may well be. Thankfully, we can count on proven facts and valid research to stand the test of time.

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Tags: Health National Advocacy Taxes
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When The News Tells Tales About Soda Taxes, What Do You Believe?

Americans For Food and Beverage Choice

The news cycle is fast and furious - but unfortunately, not every series of articles surging forward is accurate. Sometimes what we read is even downright misleading. Here’s a prime example: recent reports falsely claim that soda taxes are curbing consumption and enhancing health. Closer examination shows these stories are not backed by credible research. And, it is illogical to presume that one arbitrary tax will amount to change that registers on a bathroom scale.

It is well established that taxing a single grocery item does not cause us to change our diets in a comprehensive way. In fact, research shows, any reduced consumption of one product can actually trigger increased intake of another set of calories. Sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

What the data does make clear is that obesity and obesity-related health issues have continued to rise for years while soda consumption dropped steadily at the same time. In other words, beverages are not a unique variable driving America’s public health challenges. These issues relate to many factors, ranging from overall diet and genetics to inactivity and stress. So taxing soda is a fundamentally flawed idea to begin with.

What we hold true is that holistic education will always prove more productive than cherry-picking products to tax. It’s not up to the government to decree what you eat, drink and feed your family. We can all make informed choices from the well-labeled products on the market today, which come in a plethora of calorie counts and sizes and can be incorporated into a balanced diet.

So the next time someone tells you soda taxes are working, take a good, hard look at their claim. Taxes certainly make governments richer, but to date, research has yet to verify that grocery taxes carry any real or lasting benefits.

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Tags: Health National Advocacy Taxes
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Family Meals: A Valuable Choice

Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD

As a child family meals were a daily ritual for both breakfast and dinner in my home. My mom prepared these hot meals for our family every day of the week. When I was in high school and she returned to work full-time, I helped her both in the planning and preparation. We sat down once a week to plan the week’s dinner menus, which made it easier for us to prepare after a busy day at school or work.

Enjoy togetherness

To highlight the importance of family meals, The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Foundation led the charge to designate September as National Family Meals Month. Family meals may not take several hours to prepare anymore or be something busy families with lots of activities can do every single day but they are important for several reasons.

Savor the benefits

Sitting down and sharing a meal lets families relax and catch up after a hectic day as well as help children learn conversation skills and good table manners. According to FMI, regular family meals are linked to higher grades, better self-esteem and positive behaviors like sharing, fairness and respect. In addition, research has documented that kids who share family meals at least three times a week have healthier eating habits and are less likely to be overweight.

Involve them all

Getting the entire family involved is a great way to make sure meals represent everyone’s favorites and food preferences. When they help plan, shop for and prepare meals, children learn how a variety of foods can create nutritious, balanced meals. Using the USDA MyPlate as a guide, each family member can plan dinner for one day of the week. Parents can teach kids how to balance food choices with a meal that pairs grilled meat with fried potatoes, a steamed green veggie and whole grain roll. Likewise, enjoying fruit for dessert after most dinners allows the family to splurge a couple of nights a week on a piece of cake or an ice cream float.

Making balanced food and beverage choices starts with parents teaching their kids at home, including around the family dinner table, and a much better strategy than trying to regulate or tax people into better eating habits. There are many choices in life. Choosing to make family meals a part of the daily routine will reap benefits for parents and kids now and for years to come.

 

Neva Cochran is an award winning registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition communications consultant in Dallas, Texas. A veteran media spokesperson and popular speaker she was also a 20-year freelancer for Woman’s World Weekly magazine. She is a past president of the Texas Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and a past chair of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. Neva is also an advisory partner to the Food and Beverage Industry. Follow her on Twitter at @NevaRDLD


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Don’t Buy the Hype: Soda Taxes will not enhance health in America

Americans for Food and Beverage Choice

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about soda taxes, and politicians’ false promises are not helping cut through the confusion. In the finale of our five-part series, we'll discuss just what can be done to enhance America's public health.

What can be done to enhance health in America? Education and collaboration will continue to drive healthy choices across America. Everything we eat, drink and do contributes to the overall health picture, which is why balance, moderation and activity are truly the key. The beverage industry’s Balance Calories Initiative is working to promote this message. This effort, and others like it, will propel meaningful health behavior change. Arbitrary taxes will do no such thing.

So the next time you hear that a politician has proposed a tax for your own good, think about the real, revenue-boosting motives behind the rhetoric.

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Making Choices, Having Choices

Carol Berg Sloan, RDN, FAND

I recently attended a chef specific event where food service professionals from high-volume restaurants and hotels came together to learn about trends in the industry. What's hot on the menu? When health-conscious consumers dine out, they want flavorful food, good drinks but most of all, choice. They want to be able to get a comfort classic such as Lobster Mac' and Cheese but also have available legume centric Vegan Patties on Whole Grain Buns. They want a decadent dessert, but have the option to finish a meal with fresh fruit.  They like to see retro "pop", but also look for diet soda, flavored water and tropical fruit drinks on the bar menu. This sentiment echoed was across all age categories and geographic locations. When people spend their dollars on a meal they want to revel in the social, emotional and nourishing aspects of enjoying all types of food and drink together, but they also demand quality and a huge spectrum when it comes to choice.

I had an impromptu meal last week with a friend and colleague at a popular Japanese sushi restaurant. We chose a variety of dishes, some “healthier” than others, but a mix. It was a two hour "event" where we ate and drank, laughed, talked business and walked out feeling satiated and satisfied with the choices we made.

The bottom line is that consumers want choice. When politicians try to restrict that choice with taxes or bans, it affects everyone, from the restaurants and small businesses that are forced to limit their options, to consumers, just like you and I, who want to eat and drink what works best for us on any given day or occasion. 


Carol Berg Sloan RDN, FAND is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and independent food and nutrition communications consultant in Long Beach, California. Carol has served as a delegate to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a committee member of the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Nutrition Education for the Public and Dietitians in Business and Communication Dietetic Practice Groups. Carol is also an advisory partner to the Food and Beverage Industry.



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Tags: Health National Advocacy Blog
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What Influences Our Food & Beverage Choices?

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND

Because I’m a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), my family and friends often assume I’ll always choose the healthiest menu items when dining at a restaurant. But like most people, my food and beverage choices are based on many factors, including my mood and who I’m eating with that day. What I choose when I’m grabbing a quick bite at an airport is quite different from what I’ll order when my husband and I are out for date night.

Research from Datassential, a Chicago-based market research company, shows there are many different reasons people make certain restaurant and food choices, including how much time or money they want to spend, where they want to eat (e.g., in the car, at the restaurant, at home), whether they need a quick bite or they want to linger over a meal, and how they want to feel after eating (e.g., energized, relaxed, happy).

As a nutrition professional, of course I want people to make the “best” choice, but I also respect the fact that the “best” choice may be based on a number of factors. My goal is to help people feel good about their food and beverage choices, and to help them find balance.

Remember, the key to a healthy diet isn’t what you choose at a specific time or place; it’s based on the overall dietary pattern and lifestyle you create for yourself. On that note, I’m grabbing a diet soda and going for a short walk!

 

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND, is an award-winning dietitian, farmer’s daughter, public speaker, author, and president of Farmer’s Daughter® Consulting, Inc., an agriculture, food, and culinary communications firm.Amy is also an advisory partner to the Food and Beverage Industry.

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New Food Labels are coming!

Pat Baird, MA, RDN, FAND

One of the things that I've learned in leading corporate wellness workshops is that most people don't understand food labels. Labels often come up as an aside to the topic, or they're actually part of it.

I see many people reading labels in supermarket aisles that leads me to think, "Great, people are using the label information”, so there must be a disconnect between reading and understanding nutrition information. 

All that may change. Earlier this year FDA approved a major overall of the food label. This new label must appear by 2018.  The new label is larger, contains more information, and is meant to help people know what they're choosing.  I have a few concerns. Chiefly, that “added sugar" will be displayed just below the "Total sugar" line. I worry that consumers will focus on sugar and toss aside items without really knowing why.

Sugar is the demon of the day, and that's unfair. Sugar provides energy and that is the first need of the body and the brain. While many consume too much sugar, many also consume too much sodium. Likewise, sodium is an important nutrient.  My point: it's all about balance.  And it’s about understanding the importance of more of some things, and less of others.

For instance, this dietitian is in favor of items like chocolate milk. The nutrient value, overall, is far greater than the fuss about the added sugar it contains. Soda is another thing that gets some evil attention. Ironically, the consumption of soda has actually declined over the last 10 years. Low- and no-cal sweeteners in soda allow us to enjoy soda without calories.  "Mini" cans provide another alternative.

Knowledge is power.  That's one of my core beliefs.  When it comes to food labels, they can be a wonderful tool to help consumers make better food choices.  "Better" means understanding what you're choosing - and why.  There is never a reason to eliminate any food or beverage; only to find a place for it.

Pat Baird is a registered dietitian nutritionist, a fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; and President of the CT Academy of Nutrition.  She is an award-winning author of five books, a noted media spokesperson, and adjunct professor at UConn Stamford. Pat worked in healthcare at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and is an advisory partner to the Food and Beverage Industry.


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Tags: Health National Advocacy Blog
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Don’t Buy the Hype: Soda Taxes Hurt Consumers

Americans for Food and Beverage Choice

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about soda taxes, and politicians’ false promises are not helping cut through the confusion. In part three of our five-part series, we'll take a look at how these grocery taxes affect consumers.

What is the financial fallout of a soda tax for citizens? As others have made clear, soda taxes are costly for all consumers – but carry the biggest burden for hard-working, lower-income families. As William Shughart II, research director of the Independent Institute, has said: “We don’t normally expect politicians to be truthful. But if they want to impose these taxes, they should be honest enough to admit that they will not end obesity or diabetes, but rather will generate more of other peoples’ money for profligate state governments to spend.”

Stay tuned for more misguided motives behind beverage taxes.

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Tags: National Advocacy Taxes Blog
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Family Meals and Mindful Eating

Carol Berg Sloan, RDN, FAND

We recently had the pleasure of a weekend getaway on the family boat. My adult daughters have birthdays about 2 weeks apart so the party began after weeks of planning meals and packing the right clothes. The clothes were easy, but the meals took a bit more time.

While always thinking about balance when it comes to food, sweet treats, fun beverages, and fancy hors d'oeuvres were in order. I thought for a long time about how to keep it all in balance.

  • Cake pops make great alternatives to large slices of birthday cake. They allow everyone to have a sweet treat without overdoing the sugar!
  • With such a variety of no-and-low calorie beverages on the market, it’s easy to fit them in to a balanced diet. We opted for some diet sodas and low calorie punches for our party.
  • Baby vegetables with a Greek yogurt-based dip make a great addition to any spread.

Being together, now that the kids have scattered, was a treat in itself. The food tasted better, the drinks were more refreshing, and our hikes were more enjoyable. Research reveals that eating together feeds more than just the body. It nourishes the mind and soul as well.

Planning ahead, making smart choices regarding food and drinks, while fitting in exercise makes for a memorable and healthy weekend. Presence is indeed "presents" enough.


Carol Berg Sloan RDN, FAND is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and independent food and nutrition communications consultant in Long Beach, California. Carol has served as a delegate to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a committee member of the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Nutrition Education for the Public and Dietitians in Business and Communication Dietetic Practice Groups.

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Tags: Health National Advocacy Blog
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Don’t Buy the Hype: Soda Taxes Are Not What Politicians’ Promise

Americans for Food and Beverage Choice

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about soda taxes, and politicians’ false promises are not helping cut through the confusion. In our five-part series, we'll take a step back and look at the real motives and outcomes tied to taxes on grocery items that many Americans choose to enjoy.

Why do politicians propose targeted taxes, singling out items such as soda?

Faced with the aftermath of exorbitant government spending, politicians often look for ways to drive revenue. Rather than repaying debt, this revenue grab is often meant to fuel new areas of government spending. Making the case for new taxes and new spending is not easy, so politicians often paint a stark picture to rationalize the need for yet another tax. This is certainly the case with soda taxes. Politicians have historically vilified this product in order to advance their tax agenda – despite longstanding science that proves soda is safe.

Stay tuned for more misguided motives behind beverage taxes.

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March Madness: Basketball, Bunnies & Debates

Kim Galeaz, RDN CD 

I’ll be having my own kind of March Madness this month - the kind only a practical dietitian can have when balance, moderation, and sensibility get lost in hysteria.

1. Basketball.

Elimination is essential in a basketball tournament– but I find it maddening when eliminating certain foods and beverages – whether it’s high-salt restaurant foods or sugary beverages – is considered health-promoting. It is more realistic and sustainable to balance salty, sugary, and high-calorie foods within your overall eating plan. So as you cheer your alma mater or favorite teams, opt for plenty of calorie-burning activity to offset the extra party foods and beverages. Remember to pay as much attention to your personal health as you do to the office pool.

2. Bunnies.

Easter heralds the start of the annual “bunny bashing” - Don’t put chocolate Easter bunnies in your kids’ baskets! Too much sugar! This hysteria is typically followed by suggestions for “Easter basket makeovers,” most starting by eliminating the big chocolate bunny. Or worse yet, eliminating the Easter basket entirely. I find this maddening, because I consider the chocolate bunny tradition as a teachable moment. Teach kids how to enjoy chocolate in moderation along with nutrient-rich foods and beverages, that elimination and avoidance isn’t necessary. Teach them that rituals, traditions and seasonal festivities are the foundation of a rich life.

3. Debates.

As I watch all the presidential debates, I wonder what the candidates would say about taxing foods and beverages. Or about bans and restrictions on sugary beverages. Do they support such extreme measures under the guise of improving public health?  Or would they be more moderate and reasoned, suggesting education and personal choice as the more sustainable way to improve health? I certainly hope they’d choose the latter. Otherwise, you’ll have to add me to the 80% of Super Tuesday primary voters who at exit polls indicated they were angry/dissatisfied with current elected officials. 


Kim Galeaz RDN CD is an Indianapolis-based registered dietitian nutritionist and believes in vibrant aging and optimal health by blending and balancing all food/beverage choices with a daily dose of positive attitude and activity. As owner of Galeaz Food & Nutrition Communications, she’s a recipe creator, writer, speaker, spokesperson and advocacy consultant for the food, beverage and agriculture industry. Find Kim’s nutrition tips & recipes @KimFoodTalk

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Can We Tax Our Way to Better Diets?

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN

If your kids aren’t doing well in school, do you tell them they just have to give up video games and they’ll do better? Of course not! Even if they never played another video game for the rest of their lives, they’d still have to read books, complete assignments, and pass tests to attain those better grades.

The same is true for improving the quality of our diets or losing weight. It can’t be done by asking people to give up foods and beverages they enjoy, like soda. That’s simply not sustainable. A healthy and balanced diet requires eating the right foods in the right amounts and in the right frequency to get the desired results, with or without soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks.

The amazing thing about a well-planned diet, matched by regular exercise, is that you can actually have the occasional soft drink without “ruining” your health or gaining weight! It’s all about eating the foods that supply the nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy since nothing we remove from the diet can replace them.

While no food or beverage can cancel out the nutritional benefits of the other foods we eat, we can gain weight if we eat too many calories, including those found in the most nutritious foods. That means eating a strawberry-banana smoothie every day that is full of vitamin C, potassium, protein, and calcium can supply more calories than we need and result in weight gain over time. Those excess pounds can lead to obesity, and obesity can increase the risk for hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer no matter how many nutrients came with the calories.

So when you hear people blaming sugar-sweetened drinks for obesity or other health problems and propose to tax them or implement warning labels to improve our diets, remind them that’s not how good nutrition works - just like banning video games at home won’t make kids get better grades in school.  

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, "The Everyday RD," is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

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Making the Right Beverage Choice for You

Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD

As a registered dietitian nutritionist my colleagues and I don’t believe there’s one perfect way of eating or right diet for everyone. Likewise, the same goes for beverages. There’s no one-size-fits all drink. The good news is all beverages hydrate, even those with caffeine, according to the Institute of Medicine. (1) And there are a variety of choices to fit each person’s lifestyle and unique needs. Let’s consider a few examples.

After Exercise- After a strenuous workout of over an hour or in very hot conditions, a sports drink is appropriate not only to rehydrate but also replace electrolytes like sodium and potassium lost through perspiration. For a more casual exerciser doing a two-mile walk, a bottle of water would be the better alternative.

At Work- If a job that requires a lot of physical exertion like a postman delivering mail by foot, a construction worker, a landscaper or a server in a busy restaurant, a regular soft drink can replace calories burned along with refreshment. On the other hand, someone working in a sedentary office position and also trying to lose weight could opt for a calorie-free soda or unsweetened or low calorie sweetened tea.

With Meals- Meals are an ideal time to consume beverages that will hydrate and help meet nutrition needs. Juice with vitamins A and C and milk with protein, calcium, and vitamins A and D are both tasty options. A coffee latte either brewed or in a bottle, is a great way to get your morning shot of caffeine and a serving of milk.

  

1. “Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate” Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Science, 2004, pages 133 – 134

Neva Cochran is an award winning registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition communications consultant in Dallas, Texas. A veteran media spokesperson and popular speaker she was also a 20-year freelancer for Woman’s World Weekly magazine. She is a past president of the Texas Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and past chair of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation.

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Life In Balance

Carol Berg Sloan, RDN

My neighbors six year old just learned to ride a bike without training wheels. As I watched her go up and down the sidewalk at first with mom by her side and then unaided, her confidence and steadiness took charge.

This type of balance is important in every areas of our lives, especially between what we eat and drink and how we get out and move. Carefully choosing foods and beverages will help you stay fit, feel good, and be healthy! 

Here are four tips for good balance:

  • Enjoy your food and drink. Sharing a meal with friends and family is a great way connect and talk about nutrition. 
  • Don't eliminate foods or beverages that may not be as nutrient dense — there are no “good” or “bad” foods. Small portions of occasional sweets and treats will keep you in balance.
  • Calories in and calories out is not just an age old adage. A recent business trip had me indulging in local specialty baked goods, but the decision to walked to our meeting each day instead of grabbing a cab had be back on track.
  • Lastly but not least, educating ourselves about how to achieve balance and then decide for ourselves how best to achieve our healthy lifestyle goals is the way to better public health for everyone. 

So next opportunity that comes your way take the extra walk or hop on your bike and enjoy the ride! 

Carol Berg Sloan RDN, FAND is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and independent food and nutrition communications consultant in Long Beach, California. Carol has served as a delegate to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and as a member of the Academy Positions Committee and Finance and Audit Committee.

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The Power of Education Over Police State Regulation

Americans for Food & Beverage Choice

Take a look at the news today and you’ll see stories of how politicians want to get into the business of deciding what we eat and drink. Even though people have made it perfectly clear they are against taxes on common grocery items, that’s not stopping the food nannies from attempting to meddle with our personal choices. 

The narrative goes something like this: government needs to tax foods and beverages, because consumers couldn’t possibly read a label and strike a healthy balance themselves. What’s wrong with this? Many things.

First of all, surely politicians have more pressing matters than dictating what we can eat, drink and feed our families. Second, slapping a tax on one source of calories does nothing to get at the root of complex public health issues like obesity.

If the goal is really about making America healthier, getting that done takes education and collaboration. When we treat health this way – holistically and comprehensively – meaningful change can happen. And meanwhile, Americans remain in the driver’s seat when it comes to making these personal decisions. When what you eat and drink isn’t policed; the choice is yours alone.

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The Power of Personal Choice

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND

I’ve had Type I diabetes for 37 years and I can’t count the number of times someone has asked me, “Can you eat that?” or “Should you be drinking that?” When this happens, I typically smile and walk away.

I’m able to control my diabetes when I’m able to control my food and beverage choices, making decisions on what and how much I’ll eat based on a number of factors including my hunger, stress, and physical activity levels. One of the most challenging aspects of having Type 1 diabetes is being faced with situations where someone else has taken away my ability to make a choice.

I recently attended a business function where they served a plated lunch to everyone, a salad where the only source of carbohydrate came from a few tiny croutons. I’d already taken my pre-meal insulin, and starting panicking as I scanned the room for a source of carbohydrate. Thankfully there was a wide selection of beverages available, including some sodas. I was saved! But as soon as I grabbed one, a colleague said, “Should you be drinking that” to which I smiled and responded, “Yes, yes, I should. Thanks for asking.”

Beverage taxes are aimed to take options away for many people but fail to consider the fact that we all make food and beverage choices for a wide variety of reasons. Let’s leave it up to the individual to make the decisions that work best for them. I for one will always fight to protect the power of personal choice.

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND, is a registered dietitian nutritionist who has lived well with Type I diabetes for more than 37 years. The owner of Farmer’s Daughter Consulting, LLC, she consults with a variety of food and beverage clients on issues related to nutrition and health.

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Tags: Health Advocacy Obesity Blog
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In Case You Missed It

Pat Baird, MA, RDN, FAND

The efforts of concerned citizens, local businesses, and outsiders that banded together to fight the Alabama beverage tax proposal were not in vain- Alabama’s Governor Bentley has finally signed the state budget with no new taxes on soda! This wasn’t the first time a proposed tax on soda has been defeated. Soda tax proposals have failed in more than 30 states and cities across the country- and for good reason.

Advocates of these types of taxes claim that they are the solution to solving the obesity epidemic throughout the United States. However, a study by George Mason University researchers demonstrated that even a tax as high as 20 percent tax on soda would only reduce an obese person’s Body Mass Index from 40 to 39.98 percent. Obesity is a complex issue. Yes, food and beverages play a large part in weight - but so does genetics and exercise.  Of the three, science has shown that balancing food and beverage choices with physical activity are effective in managing weight. The Centers for Disease Control has a number of different strategies for managing weight and reducing the obesity epidemic- none of which includes taxes.

Demonizing certain foods and/or beverages just doesn’t work. What will work is increasing nutrition education, improving community access to parks and walking paths, and teaching people how to read food labels, along with a host of other approaches. 

So congratulations Alabamians- let common sense and moderation prevail.

Pat Baird is a registered dietitian nutritionist, a fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; and President of the CT Academy of Nutrition.  She is an award-winning author of five books, a noted media spokesperson, and adjunct professor at UConn Stamford. Pat worked in healthcare at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. 

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Myth Or Fact: Is a calorie just a calorie?

Amber Pankonin MS, RDN, CSP, LMNT

There are many claims today about how reducing calories in the diet is not the only key to weight loss.  The focus has shifted to the source of calories and not necessarily the amount of calories that are consumed.  I have also seen suggestive headlines that you can simply lose weight without giving up a single calorie or without having to do any form of physical activity or exercise - this is simply not true.

Calories that accompany foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber such as fruit and vegetables are definitely a smart choice. However, I believe that you can balance those choices with more indulgent choices throughout the day and still succeed at weight loss — especially when you include physical activity in your daily routine.

With the amount of nutrition and calorie information available and with so many great selections to choose from, I don’t just think but instead know that it is possible to achieve weight loss by reducing overall calories and including physical activity everyday. Diet beverages are just one of the proven tools for reducing caloric intake, while still allowing yourself a treat.

At the end of the day, all calories count—from any source. The body of science is clear and supports that a calorie is still a calorie regardless of the source and that weight loss can be achieved through making independent choices and including physical activity. Balance is key.

Amber Pankonin MS, RDN, CSP, LMNT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, passionate about food, nutrition science, and agriculture. She works as a nutrition communications consultant, adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and blogger at stirlist.com

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Why I said no to an additional beverage tax in Chicago

Melissa Joy Dobbins

Although I live in Chicago, where there are many politicians, I don’t “talk politics” very often. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about politics or laws or taxes. Of course I do. In fact, I care a lot. As a Chicago based registered dietitian nutritionist for my entire 20+ year career, there is plenty to care about. I became a dietitian to help educate and empower people to make their own, well-informed nutrition decisions – because that is what really matters and what really works. 

Case in point, Chicago politicians are introducing yet another beverage tax. As a dietitian and a mom, I feel very strongly that it should be up to individuals and families to choose what they put in their grocery carts. Politicians should not be making those choices for me, you, or anyone. In my expert opinion, education – not regulation – is the key to helping people make their own, well-informed health choices.

So what can we do about this? I joined the new Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes and sent a letter to my alderman to say “no” to additional beverage taxes, and I encourage you to do the same. After all, it’s not just that we don’t want the government controlling our purchases, research shows that is not effective anyway. Be informed and be heard – sign up for the coalition today.

Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDE is a nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator with more than 20 years’ experience helping people enjoy their food with health in mind. She is known as the Guilt-Free RD – “because food shouldn’t make you feel bad!” TM. Connect with her on Twitter @MelissaJoyRD, check out her blog, and her new Sound Bites podcast.

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Food Fear: Will Warning Labels do More Harm than Good?

Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, LDN

Over recent weeks and months, there has been chatter about placing warning labels on sugary beverages in an effort to improve the health of Americans. Food activists are claiming that warning labels on products such as soda will help consumers make healthier choices and reduce incidences of obesity. Really? It’s highly debatable whether a warning label will deter soda sales, but I am quite certain that a warning label on groceries will not improve the health of Americans.

Ideas like the proposed warning labels emphasize to me how illiterate many food activists are about human behavior and what people across the country actually eat. Encouraging people to embrace a healthy lifestyle will take more than singling out and discouraging a single calorie source; and it’s not something that will happen overnight or with excessive red tape. People are more successful at behavior change when they have access to appropriate guidance, education, and long-term support.

Obesity prevention isn’t about telling people what to eat either. It’s about helping people learn how to engage in a balanced lifestyle (and truly value it) - which includes finding ways to be more physically active, managing stress, as well as learning how to choose options from each food group in a balance way.  In other words: helping people figure out how to balance their activity with their diet that provides a variety of foods that they can enjoy, in moderate amounts.

So how would a simple warning label on soda teach consumers what to place in their grocery cart and how to reduce stress or fit in exercise?

Don’t underestimate the consumer -- they understand that treats can be enjoyed in moderation and that all calories count.

In addition to being the mother of 3 sons, Rosanne has nearly 30 years of experience in the food and nutrition field. She is the coauthor of several books, including DASH Diet For Dummies®, which all share her philosophy of balancing healthy eating with exercise and an enjoyment of life's little pleasures. Check out her blog, Chew The Facts, for more on this topic.

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