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Soda taxes: not good for your wallet or your health

Americans for Food and Beverage Choice

Time and time again, soda taxes have proven a failure. From rising obesity rates in states where they’ve been deployed, like Arkansas, to increased soda sales where beverage taxes have been enacted, as we’re seeing in Mexico—one thing is clear, soda taxes fail to improve public health.

A study at George Mason University determined that a 75-cent soda taxed to a higher price of 90 cents would only decrease the BMI of a severely obese person by 0.02 percent. The data shows that levying taxes on soda is a quite inefficient way to improve the health of the public. Rather, it increases the government’s control over your decisions and your money.

The government should never exercise control of your decisions, and your family’s grocery budgets, to fill their bank account under the pretense of improving your health. Our people deserve to be treated more fairly by the officials elected to serve them.

Soda taxes are no way to improve public health. Comprehensive health education, is a far more efficient, effective alternative.

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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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Fads Fade Away, and Taxes Don’t Save the Day

Americans for Food and Beverage Choice

Over the decades, diet trends come and go. The pattern is the same though. Villify carbs, while propping up protein. Banish eggs, only to find out later they are actually good for you. The piece of advice that remains constant throughout fluctuating dietary recommendations is moderation. This is the key to a healthier America, not random regulations on what you buy at the grocery store.

A recent article in The Globe and Mail drives this point home. The paper’s editorial board says: “There is no magic bullet of the kind beloved by diet gurus – an approach now recognized as ineffective through past governments’ demonizing of saturated fat, which led to the increased consumption of low-fat, high-carbohydrate processed foods directly associated with the modern obesity trend.”

Soda taxes, proposed by some politicians, are the latest in a series of government-led trends, which attempt to tell you what you should and should not consume. The motive, though, is really revenue. Slap a tax on a common grocery item, and the government reaps the benefits of the proceeds. There is a higher cost, though, not only for hard-working consumers and local businesses, but also for our freedom of choice.

At the end of the day, and with every passing fad, it always comes back to moderation. Regressive taxes won’t solve anything. Our health, and the beverages we enjoy, always come back to balance.

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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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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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Touchdowns, Tailgate Parties & Taxes

Kim Galeaz, RDN CD

It’s football season- time for tailgate parties, cheering on your favorite college and/or professional team with good friends, great food, and new taxes on your beverages.

Penalty! I vow to throw down the yellow flag on any politician or governing body that wants to propose taxes on our sugar-sweetened beverages. Together we can sideline anyone proposing these kinds of overreaching taxes under the guise of improving public health.

Let’s look at the facts:

  • There is simply no scientific evidence that sugar-sweetened beverages cause obesity or any purported health issues. In fact, according to USDA data, sugar actually plays a minor role in additional calories in the American diet.
  • Most tailgate parties contain other both healthy and decadent food choices which all need to be balanced within your entire calorie budget. Why single out our drinks in that mix?
  • Studies have consistently shown that taxes on beverages do little more than raise revenue.

As a dietitian, I want those tailgating coolers to include a variety of foods and beverages because these choices provide happiness, enjoyment, and hydration. And all daily calories should be balanced with plenty of exercise for optimal health.

So cheer on your local and favorite politicians that stand up for NO NEW TAXES on your beverages and food. Rally team support for individual choice and personal preferences. And shout loud and clear what many politicians seem to have forgotten - behavior change comes with empowerment through education and conscientious personal responsibility. Touchdown! Victory!

 

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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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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Freedom and Independence at the Supermarket

Kim Galeaz, RDN CD

Let’s pretend it’s the year 2025. Picture your typical 4th of July picnic, party, or cookout. Now, imagine shopping for all those foods and beverages in your favorite supermarket.

You’ll be taxed on practically every holiday treat containing sugar, from the American Flag cake, southern sweet tea, baked beans, ketchup and buns for hamburgers and pickle relish and buns for hotdogs. You’ll see warning labels plastered across the packages of your red, white, and blue cookies (sugar) and even on that deli counter potato salad (salt and sugar).

Seems far-fetched, right? Hopefully. But given the sad state of affairs right now in 2015, I have my concerns and doubts. Too many leaders, so-called experts, and powers-that-be have gotten their way with controlling your choices. Regressive taxes, regulations, restrictions and out-right bans continue to be proposed on sugar-sweetened beverages – even sugary desserts and snacks in some states. It’s all couched as a critical public health step while disregarding individual choice and preferences. Politicians seem to have forgotten that behavior change comes with empowerment through education and conscientious personal responsibility.

As you enjoy your 4th of July celebration this year, I hope you will join me in declaring independence and freedom from government control over food and beverages choices.


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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Your diet should be based on facts, not fears

Melissa Joy Dobbins MS, RDN, CDE

I’m proud to say that I grew up in Illinois and have lived in the Chicago area for my entire 20+ year career as a registered dietitian nutritionist. I absolutely love Chicago, but I don’t love all the extra taxes we seem to have. And now, Illinois politicians are proposing yet another tax, the Illinois Beverage Tax. Their proposal would affect more than just soft drinks, it would also include sports drinks, juices, and teas and could result in a price increase of 72% on some beverages. In Chicago, where beverages already have a sales tax and a city tax, this additional tax could result in a single product being taxed three different times.

There is no evidence that beverage taxes have helped reduce the rate of obesity or diabetes, they simply raise revenue for the state. The reason I became a dietitian in the first place was to help people make their own, well-informed decisions about their health and nutrition based on facts and not fear. Therefore, the misleading implication that soda taxes will decrease intake and help curb obesity is of particular concern to me.

As a young child I was on food stamps, and to this day I feel like the richest person in the world if I can afford to buy whatever I want at the grocery store. That doesn’t mean my shopping cart is void of nutrition, it means that I get to choose what I put in my cart and have the right to balance my purchases and my intake of foods according to the 80/20 rule: make healthier choices 80% of the time, and enjoy treats 20% of the time. Balance is key.

As a dietitian, I know firsthand from counseling thousands of clients, that having choices is helpful in determining what works best and creating an individualized plan. Because I think “choice” is so important, I joined the Illinois Coalition Against Beverage Taxes and wrote a letter to my Illinois State Representatives opposing the beverage tax. If you’re an Illinois resident, I encourage you to do the same.

 

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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Avoiding Excess Calories

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN

I heard a funny joke the other day about a woman who couldn’t double the recipe for her favorite chocolate chip cookies because her oven didn’t go up to 700 degrees. Anyone who likes to cook knows you don’t have to double the oven temperature to make more cookies, just the ingredients, but it got me thinking about some of the other “kitchen math” that keeps people from eating well.

Counting calories is by far the toughest nutrition problem most people have to solve each day.  Knowing how many calories we consume is one half of the energy balance equation (more math!) Knowing how much energy we expend in physical activity is the other half.  The calories from all foods and beverages contribute equally to the intake side of the equation. When we consume more calories than we expend we can gain weight.  Increasing our level of activity is one way to off-set those extra calories. Consuming fewer calories is another. Keeping both sides in balance is the goal for weight maintenance. If you’re tuned in to popular media you might think sugar-sweetened drinks are responsible for obesity, but that simply isn’t true.

All calories count - which is why I shake my head in disbelief at those who single out just one caloric source as the cause for obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Proponents of taxes on soda, warnings on sugar-sweetened beverages, and more red tape for grocery stores have got it wrong. As a registered dietitian, I’m convinced that consuming excess calories is the problem and unfortunately, there is no tax that will fix that.   

 

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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The Scientific Argument Against Soda Taxes

Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD

In their continuing quest to legislate eating habits, state legislators in California and Illinois recently introduced two bills in the state assembly, one to tax soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages and another to add warning labels to these drinks. The underlying issue we need to consider is whether taxes and bans on foods and beverages really decrease consumption? Several studies say they do not.

  • A new study in the RAND Journal of Economics evaluated data from 781 households in two suburban areas and concluded that soda taxes will raise revenue but are unlikely to substantially influence soda consumption. Previous studies have overestimated the ability of taxes to reduce intake by nearly 60%.
  • A 2014 report published in HealthEconomics looked at soda and other beverages consumed between 1989 and 2006 for participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), as well as information from two states that substantially increased soda taxes in the 1990’s. Results found little evidence of changes in either beverage consumption or weight.
  • Researchers reported in Preventive Medicine last year that only 22% of the U.S. public favor soda taxes when they determined support for policies to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage intake.
  • A study in Contemporary Economic Policy in 2010 evaluated the effect of changes in state soft drink taxes on body mass index, obesity and overweight and concluded their impact is small.

In my experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist, counseling people about their diet, I’ve found helping them find ways to include some of their favorites has a much better chance of successfully changing eating habits than making certain foods off-limits. So here’s my idea for California and Illinois legislators; Rather than trying to reduce sugar intake with taxes and labels, why not promote education over regulation.  With its ideal growing conditions, California produces over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts. Why not celebrate the abundance of flavorful, nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables and nuts produced in this state? This would be a more positive way to improve nutrition habits.

 

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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Thanks Mom for Teaching Us to Make Good Choices

Susan Mitchell, PhD, RDN, LDN, FAND

Growing up, my Mom was the guiding force in the family when it came to our food and beverage choices at meals and snacks. From her, I learned about the importance of family meals, conversation, choices, how much to eat, and when to say you’ve had plenty. She also sparked my interest and love for food and nutrition that I have today. Notice there’s no mention of the government’s role in either my food and beverage selections or a tax on certain food or beverages to try and affect those selections. I believe in consumer freedom and support the right to choose what you consume. Your choices are nobody’s business.

Solid evidence continues to show that soda taxes raise revenue but are unlikely to affect soda consumption substantially. The USDA and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data both show a decline in the amount of added sugar consumed since 1999 while obesity and diabetes rates have continued to rise. This evidence begs the question, what is the real motivation for politicians to push for soda taxes?

Instead of taxes, empowerment with education is the smart choice. As the saying goes, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime". Starting young and teaching our children how to make healthy choices including portion sizes, being reasonable when it comes to treat-type foods and staying active is key to a healthier weight and life. Whether it’s playing a sport, planting a garden, or learning to cook quick, healthful meals, the do-as-I-do approach wins every time over the do-as-I-say one.

 

Award winning registered dietitian nutritionist, Dr. Susan Mitchell is host of the podcast Breaking Down Nutrition: Your Digest for What Works, What Doesn’t. She also shares her passion for nutrition at FoodFitFabulous.com where you’ll find the food you love, how to be fit for life and fabulous everyday. 

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It’s About Choice!

Pat Baird, MA, RDN, FAND

Get ready.  Get set.  New Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) are coming.  Every five years, as a joint effort, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture evaluate the latest science and research on nutrition, diet, and health for Americans over the age of two.  The 2015 revisions will be released in the next few months.

Despite all the widespread hype regarding sugar, the intake of added sugar has actually “decreased for both males and females across all age groups…” according to the recently released Scientific Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.  Clearly it’s progress.

What is evident throughout the document is the element of choice.  The report encourages individuals to combine foods in a variety of ways and develop a personalized plan to achieve their own diet and activity patterns.  Though the focus is on an overall pattern of diets high in vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and low in fatty and processed meat, they also say “…it is not necessary to eliminate food groups or conform to a single dietary pattern…” Words like “flexible” are frequently used. 

In order to make healthy behavior changes with targeted interventions, it’s likely the new DGS will recommend education as the route to help Americans balance their lifestyle.  Though there is a mention of disincentives (that might imply a tax on certain items), let’s hope that part does not make it to the final version. Singling out just one source of calories will have little benefit to the American diet- it needs a much more comprehensive view. Partnerships with schools, worksites and the food industry are just a few ways to step up education.  Better education leads to better choices.  That’s what works and, ultimately, that means healthier Americans.

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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Looking Beyond The Headlines To Make Informed Choices

Melissa Joy Dobbins

When I heard the recent news headline that diet soda leads to bigger waistlines, my first thought was, “Or do bigger waistlines lead to diet soda?” It seems to me that people who are watching their waistlines might be more likely to choose diet sodas than those who are not.

Well, the truth is, just because there is a correlation between two things that doesn’t mean that one necessarily causes the other. In scientific research, “correlation” is very different from “causation”. Certain types of nutrition research (randomized controlled human clinical trials) can determine cause and effect, however most of the data linking diet to chronic disease comes from observational human epidemiological studies. This type of research cannot determine cause and effect; it can only determine associations (correlations) to be studied in future research, which was the case in the most recent sensationalized media headline about diet soda and waistlines.

In my registered dietitian opinion, this is precisely why it’s so challenging for people to take nutrition headlines and figure out what the bottom line takeaways are. Sensational and misleading headlines get in the way of people making their own, well-informed choices about their diet and lifestyle. Weight control is hard enough without conflicting and confusing information getting in the way of your efforts. And it’s not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. In my 20+ year career as a dietitian I’ve counseled thousands of people on weight management and diabetes. Each and every client is unique. Each and every client needs an individualized assessment and goals that are tailored to their specific needs.

My advice: question the headlines, balance your diet and exercise, and make well-informed choices that fit your lifestyle and health goals. After all, it is up to you to make your own choices about your diet and exercise habits.


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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Can Taxes Improve Eating Habits?

Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

I’ve never been a fan of legislating people’s eating habits whether it was the failed attempt to limit beverage portion sizes In New York City or the current legislative initiatives to tax beverages with sugar in Vermont, California and Illinois.

While soda and sugar have become the popular scapegoats for rising obesity and diabetes rates, taking a closer look at US Department of Agriculture data gives you pause. In 2010 (the last year there is complete data) we ate an average of 460 more calories a day than in 1970. Of these extra calories, only 7% (34 calories) come from added sugars while 53% (242 calories) come from fats and oils and 36% (167 calories) come from flour and cereal products. The remaining 4% (15 calories) come from all other sources – dairy, meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables. So in the 1980’s and 90’s when fat was derided as the culprit for weight gain and heart disease and eating low-fat was the call of the day, our fat intake actually went up!

Even more telling is the USDA and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data that both show a decline in added sugar intake since 1999 while obesity and diabetes rates have continued to rise. Will taxing sugared drinks really make a difference when people are already cutting down on their own? Or could it have the opposite effect like the low-fat movement did on fat intake?

As a registered dietitian nutritionist with over 30 years experience, I’ve never found food bans or restrictive diets to be the best way to successfully improve eating habits. Rather, by using a positive approach and working with people to help them make wise choices I can show them how to include some favorite foods and beverages in moderation as part of a nutritionally balanced eating plan. That way people can take personal responsibility in managing their diet and feel empowered, not overpowered by outside forces.

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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Workout Refuel: Flavored Milk Hits the Mark

Susan Mitchell, PhD, RDN, FAND

I’ve been a chocolate milk lover for years and drink it when I work out, particularly after a long walk. I was dismayed to discover it would be included in the sugar-sweetened beverage taxes that are becoming popular with politicians. Sure it’s sweet, but it’s also great for you. Here are six nutritional reasons you don’t want to miss out on flavored milk’s makeover reveal:

• 8-ounce glass: below 150 calories, average: 134
• Part of the sugar is naturally occurring called lactose
• Part of the sugar in milk is “added sugar”
• 38% less added sugar
• Added sugar decreased from 16.7 grams to 10.4 grams or 2.5 teaspoons
• 22 grams total sugar (10 grams or 2.5 teaspoons which is added, the rest is naturally in milk)

Still concerned about added sugar? Check out this eye opening facts:

• We are eating 22% (458 calories) more per day than in prior years. Fats, oils and grains make up the majority of these additional calories, not added sugars, as hype would have you believe.

• Your cold glass of flavored milk contains the same nine essential nutrients found in white milk and is the #1 food source for three of four nutrients the Dietary Guidelines of America (DGA) say consume more of: vitamin D, calcium & potassium. (Nine nutrients for a small amount of added sugar is a trade off I can easily live with!

• Research also shows that milk drinkers (including flavored) have higher intakes of calcium, vitamin A, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium than non-drinkers.

Be aware that you could be paying more at the grocery soon for this protein-packed flavored milk under a soda tax- despite all of the amazing qualities of flavored milks and poor correlation between beverage calories and obesity rates. I prefer to empower people with nutrition knowledge that can be used daily versus singling out one source of calories to tax. Education, not regulation, is the way to lower obesity rates.

Packed with nutrition and lower in added sugars, pour me a glass please.

Registered dietitian nutritionist, Dr. Susan Mitchell is host of the podcast, Breaking Down Nutrition: Your Digest for What Works, What Doesn’t. She also shares her passion for nutrition at FoodFitFabulous.com where you’ll find the food you love, how to be fit for life and fabulous every day. 

 

 

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A Nutritionist’s School of Thought

Carol Berg Sloan, RDN

I recently went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was spectacular, with a million gallon shark tank, kelp beds, and several smaller tanks. These smaller tanks were filled with sardines swimming in “schools” with perfect synchronicity. Whether this was for protection, temperature control or a genetic trait, I found it fascinating how they traveled as a group, literally following each other blindly.

As a clinician, I of course compared this phenomenon to humans and how we also like to congregate and “follow the leader”. To connect the dots back to nutrition and health, many times consumers will listen and then follow the advice of a few, without investigation or scientific reasoning. A timely example is the issue of soda taxes or “sin” taxes.

A vocal minority push forth the initiative of taxing soda with the supposed good intention of health benefits (reducing obesity) down the road. Unfortunately extenuating factors aren’t taken into consideration on the impact of such a tax. How will it affect small business, families and communities? Who will really benefit? Where will collected taxes go? Will these taxes really make a difference on health? Recent research has revealed that these taxes won’t impact consumer health, will hurt businesses, and are actually detrimental to communities when consumers will shop elsewhere.

The American public is thirsty (pun intended!) for nutrition education and they want to make informed decisions on what they eat and drink. Who doesn’t?  Let’s provide them with this knowledge utilizing programs such as Mixify or Clear on Calories. We forget what was shared by the great Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”  Let’s educate, not regulate, consumers so they can make decisions based on science and rationale not hype and personal agendas. My goal is for families to take the lead, not “follow”.

 

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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Hawaii Rejects Soda Tax And Warning Label Proposals

 

Politicians in Hawaii have abandoned soda tax and warning-label proposals again this year. Logic and common sense have prevailed thanks to the help of voters like you!

We stand united in fighting these misguided proposals that unfairly single out one industry.  After all, we know that they will do nothing to improve public health. The truth is, misguided warning labels on certain sugar-sweetened beverages – but not on other more caloric foods and beverages – confuse consumers about the causes of diabetes and obesity.  If we want to get serious about obesity, it starts with meaningful education – not misleading warning labels and soda taxes. 

Hawaii knows that there are better ways to help make people healthy – and we agree.  We must all share in the responsibility, rather than simply scapegoating certain foods and beverages.

So, thanks Hawaii!  Let’s continue to work together and challenge these shortsighted proposals!

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The Fallacy of Forbidden Foods

Pat Baird, MA, RDN, FAND


There’s a certain allure to all things forbidden.  What may have started with something as innocent as an apple continues today.  The current bashing of any single food or beverage source is case in point.

What most people don’t realize is that opinions or hypotheticals don’t count here.  Nutrition is a science.  That means there must evidence-based research to support a claim.

One claim is that soda or sugar causes obesity. There is no conclusive evidence that either of these actually causes excess weight gain- and studies continue to show inconsistencies in the correlation between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity.  In response to such allegations, many states in the U.S. are trying to use taxes to legislate our society to be healthy, instead of educating the public on how to achieve balance.

In reality, consumption of beverage calories has decreased by more than 24% since 1998, yet obesity rates continue to climb. A study published by the Cato Institute stated that a tax on soda would not significantly impact body mass index (BMI) or change consumption.  Another study by the Rand Corporation, and funded by the federal government and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, reviewed soda taxes in 40 states and concluded that small taxes, of a few cents per serving, do little to reduce soft drink consumption or prevent childhood obesity.

As a nutritionist, I know that very low-calorie diets lead to rapid weight gain as calorie levels are increased and that eliminating certain foods and beverages often leads to binging. Science demonstrates that excess calories and lack of physical activity leads to weight gain. So what good will come of a tax on any single food of beverage? A better approach to health and weight management comes from a balance of foods that people enjoy, in sensible portion sizes, along with moderate activity.

Time-after-time science comes in on the side of moderation.  Rather than demonizing one food or ingredient, let’s stop demonizing it – or making it forbidden. Though there may be an initial appeal to such tactics, it doesn’t work.  Instead, let’s give consumers sensible information grounded in science and practicality.

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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A Soda Tax is not the Answer

Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, LDN

 

Proposed soda taxes have been a hot topic lately, with the latest being discussed in Vermont. Studies consistently disprove their effectiveness, so what will help to combat America’s obesity problem?

While some obese individuals may report an excessive intake of sugary beverages, it certainly is not the only issue with their dietary intake. Obesity is a complex issue with many variables and singling out soda will not help improve public health. In lieu of passing along the tax to consumers, I suggest utilizing the nutrition education resources already available. No matter how the food supply is manipulated, eating well will always come down to the individual’s choice, so only the ability to make an informed choice will have a positive effect on national health.

My approach to healthy eating involves including healthy foods that you and your family enjoy, and offering appropriate portions based on age and activity. You can keep the treat foods you like in moderation, while focusing on what you should be adding to it:

  • Fresh fruit: Add berries to your morning oatmeal and pack a banana for a mid day snack.
  • Low fat Dairy: Use low fat milk to create creamy sauces making vegetables and other side dishes more enjoyable. Milk, as well as being a good source of vitamin D, is packed with protein and calcium.
  • Vegetables: Try cooking them in a variety of ways. Roasting fresh cut veggies with olive oil and garlic is one of my favorites. Fresh, frozen or canned: There’s really no such thing as too many vegetables.
  • Lean Protein: Lean beef, pork, fish, eggs, and skinless poultry are good sources of protein to include in your diet. Plant proteins are important to – so add some beans whenever you can. Add a small serving of these protein foods to each meal, to balance calories and keep you satisfied.

 Let’s work together to educate our children, families, and friends on ways to improve our overall diet and exercise regimes. It’s our right to choose what we eat and drink.

 

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.

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