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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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Top Five Summer Hydration Myths

Kim Galeaz, RDN CD 

These five summer-related food and beverage myths are just as relentless and oppressive as the Midwest heat and humidity. They just won’t go away. But I’m persistent, too, so here are the facts.

1. Myth: Only water hydrates.

Fact: All beverages hydrate because they’re all high water content. Milk, juice, regular and diet sodas, sports and energy drinks, tea and coffee all count as hydration.  Even summertime lemonade and sweet tea. In fact, diet soda is 99% water!

2. Myth: Caffeine dehydrates.

Fact: Your morning coffee, latte, and summer peach tea all hydrate. When the IOM (Institute of Medicine) released the 2004 DRI (Dietary Reference Intakes) on water needs, they determined caffeine-containing beverages do not negatively affect hydration in people accustomed to consuming caffeine. Not accustomed to consuming caffeine? Your body will adjust in about five days. So go ahead, kick back, and cool off with a big glass of refreshing iced tea.

3. Myth: Eight cups daily.

Fact: You actually need more: Men need at least 13 cups of total fluid daily and women need at least 9 cups. But this is in a temperate climate and without strenuous activity. So when you’re taking your daily exercise run, playing badminton on a humid summer evening or riding your bike in the park, you need to balance accordingly. Which is why it’s good to know all beverages hydrate. Bonus fact: research indicates you’ll drink 45 to 50 percent more if it’s flavored.

4. Myth: Beverages with low-calorie sweeteners are off-limits.

Fact: All no- and low-calorie sweeteners are safe to consume (hundreds of studies confirm) and can be an effective weight loss/management tool. And no, they don’t increase your appetite or cause weight gain either. I’ve been drinking about three diet sodas daily for over 40 years and my weight is optimal.

5. Myth: Sugary beverages and foods are off limits.

Fact: Sugar is okay to enjoy, including summertime popsicles and snow cones (lots of water!) and lemon shake-ups at the State Fair. Paying attention to ALL calories and choices daily is the key, not over-focusing on just sugar. Focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy choices instead and enjoy sugary drinks and foods along with - not instead of - an overall healthy diet.

 

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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Stand Up to Food Nannies

We’re sick of the food nannies telling us what we can and can’t eat.

In the 80’s, they told us fat was bad, now, we understand that most fats are good for you. Then, they told us salt was out of the question. Now, the science affirms that there is minimal support for drastic reducing sodium intake. Now, the food nannies are coming for sugar. Specifically, sugar sweetened beverages.

From California to Pennsylvania, local and state government food nannies are proposing beverage taxes under the guise of improving public health. These proposals simply serve as an ill-fitting band aid for politicians with a severe problem of overspending. Singling out one caloric source is never a good, nor realistic, path to achieving better health— overall balance and consideration of all calories matters most. And the science proves it.

Learn more on The Truth About Beverage Taxes and don’t let the food nannies tell you what you can and cannot eat. What goes in your grocery cart is your choice.

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Tags: Health National Blog Choice
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Sweet Childhood Memories

Robyn Flipse

While refilling the sugar bowl after a weekend visit from a friend, who likes her coffee sweet, I found myself wondering how this ingredient found in nearly every pantry in the world has become so vilified. That wasn’t always the case. 

Sugar was a big part of my diet when I was growing up. My mother took pride in her homemade pies, beautifully decorated birthday cakes, and the 30 different varieties of Christmas cookies she baked every year for family and friends. In the summer she made delicious jars of jams and preserves that my sisters and I spread on her freshly baked bread as an after school snack. And every night after dinner we had dessert, even if it was just a dish of pudding. All that cooking and baking used a lot of sugar!

If I tell someone these memories of my childhood diet they often remark how lucky I was. Looking back I have to agree— there was no guilt or shame in enjoying all the sweet treats my mother prepared. But that’s not the only thing that was different.

My friends and I were much more active than children are today. We walked or rode our bikes to school every day and any place we wanted to go when not in school. We also had far less screen time with just one TV in the house and only 5 channels to watch. And our nutrition education started early, at home, by eating our meals together and learning to how to cook.  .

Heaping all of the blame for our rising rates of obesity on added sugar consumption just doesn’t make sense. Many other changes in our way of life over the past 50 years have also contributed to the problem, so taxing and restricting access to sweetened drinks is not a solution. I can’t even imagine how my mother would have reacted if a law was passed limiting the amount of sugar she could buy!  It’s time to start taking personal responsibility for our health, starting with making better food choices and being more active. Thankfully, we don’t need any new laws to do 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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Tags: Health Balance Choice
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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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Fall into Smart Portions

Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, LDN

Fall has arrived and you may find yourself planning get-togethers for football tailgates, fall festivals, or school classroom parties, so I thought this was the perfect time to share some tips to keep things balanced.

  • Balance out the sweet-treat food with a platter of veggies with dip. Make it festive with simple orange quarters, or add a platter of whole grain crackers with cheese, or oat bran pretzel sticks with dip.
  • Offer a variety of beverages on ice - water bottles, apple cider, diet, and regular drinks. Offer mini cans of soft drinks, try mixing up a punch adding seltzer mixed with your favorite fruit drink.
  • Nutrition education starts in the home. Don’t food shame.. It’s adds an unhealthy perspective on eating, and may even promote disordered eating. It’s okay to enjoy a sweet treat on a special occasion. Plan a spread with enough of a few things, rather than too much. Portions matter, so enjoy your favorites in moderation.

Using these simple strategies, we will all be able to enjoy the fall season with family and friends, without sacrificing a balanced diet. Cheers!

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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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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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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Bacon, Soda, and Longevity – What’s the Connection?

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN

Did you see the headlines earlier this summer proclaiming the world’s oldest person eats bacon every day? The story caught my attention since bacon is one of those “guilty pleasure” foods we all enjoy, and we now have evidence that a 116 year old woman has been eating it every day!

There are many other things that may have contributed to this woman’s long life, such as her genetic heritage (her grandmother lived to be 117!). She also naps regularly, eats three meals a day and has a loving family.

As with most things in a long life, it’s never that simple – Spoiler alert: bacon is not the key to longevity!

The same holds true for headlines that say drinking soda can cause obesity, type 2 diabetes, or heart disease. What’s missing from those unfounded statements is any evidence from randomized clinical trials to demonstrate cause and effect.

Like longevity, the research on what does cause these illnesses reveals a strong genetic component. They are also influenced by numerous environmental factors and lifestyle behaviors. It’s just not a simple matter of sipping a sugar-sweetened beverage or not. In fact, our overall dietary patterns   matter much more than any single food we may eat.

I’m sure it will make many people happy to know they can still enjoy bacon and their favorite soft drink and live a long life. The lesson here is that it’s not the bacon that will guarantee you’ll reach your 100th birthday or the sweet drink that will keep you from getting there. Eating balanced meals and getting plenty of physical activity are habits that can add years to your life.

Keep that in mind the next time you see an inflammatory headline providing a quick fix for all of your dietary woes.

 

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 Sweet Truth about Your Health Concerns

Susan Mitchell, PhD, RDN, LDN, FAND

Growing up in the South, homemade desserts were a part of life. My Mom made fabulous baked goods like sticky buns and desserts like angel food cake or pecan pie on birthdays. My passion for food and baking comes from watching her and experiencing how cooking food for your family and friends is about relationships and love. Portions were not obscene. A cookie didn’t resemble a small pizza.

Fast-forward and portion sizes have puffed up, the number of calories we eat everyday has shot up and many of us face health concerns. Do you? The media likes to make scapegoats out of a single food or food ingredient such as sugar. Working in this arena, I see it everyday. It’s so hard to know sound science from pseudo science. Plus, state governments attempt to add taxes to your food as a way to force change in the weight issue facing our country. But does it?

Solid evidence continues to show that soda taxes raise revenue but are unlikely to affect soda consumption or weight loss 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.

Healthy options are available if we make the decision to choose them. Education and empowerment are the ticket for changing health concerns. Instead of taxing beverages and food as an answer for obesity, how about taking a stand against ‘sitting disease’ the norm in most offices? And find smart and creative ways to cut back on excess calories eaten from nutritional vacant foods that affect our daily lives and the scale. Small and simple changes over time can have a large impact on health concerns and weight.

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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Good, Bad and the Ugly: Conversations about Foods, Beverages and Ingredients

Carol Berg Sloan, RDN

I recently came across an article which began “In the last few years, I’ve watched a continuing battle among my friends about which is worse for you: artificial sweeteners or sugar.”  It reminded me of the several heated discussions with friends and family members about what are considered “good” or “bad” foods, beverages, and ingredients over the past several months, which always begin the same way.

Someone will want me to tell them the magic foods they should eat and what dreadful foods they should stay away from in comparison, for example kale vs ice berg lettuce, whole grain crackers or cheese puffs, or coffee vs green tea? The overlying theme is that these topics are typically based on the most recent headline page, a popular blog or hearsay at the office, parties, or family gatherings.

To such debates, I usually state that we eat a variety of foods and beverages throughout our lifetimes and most people consume different foods and beverages daily! Humans like variety and variety is the spice of life. The bottom-line is that all foods and beverages can fit into a healthy diet while minding portion control and having an awareness of nutrients. A single bowl of kale won’t miraculously help you lose weight, just as a single can of soda won’t ruin your diet. Moderation across all calories is the key.

Back to the article at hand, when asked about sweeteners and safety, the science trumps all and even points to the usefulness of these sweeteners when if come to losing weight. But remember, there can be room in your diet for sugar, also, if you take the rules of balance and moderation into consideration.

As a registered dietitian I will continue to give my clients, friends, and family advice based on current evidence and my expertise, not the opinion du jour or other hearsay. Keep the science in mind when making your choices at the grocery store!

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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Perception vs. Reality: Low-Calorie Sweetener Edition

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN

I’m often amazed by the number of choices available in nearly every category in my local supermarket. From cereals to sodas, we can always find a choice that suits our mood, our budget, or our health goals.

The other day I noticed a store display featuring sparkling waters, offering twelve flavors to choose from, so I selected a few and headed to the checkout area. The cashier was quick to comment on the sparkling waters, saying “Those are so much better for you than diet sodas.” I wanted to explain to her that they are nearly identical to diet sodas. Like diet sodas, zero-calorie, flavored, sparkling waters are composed of mainly water, flavorings, and low-calorie sweeteners, which are safe and effective for sweetening a wide variety of foods and beverages.

A recent consensus statement from nutrition experts around the world summarized the benefits of low-calories sweeteners as follows:

  1.  Low calorie sweeteners do not increase appetite and have no discernible effect on hunger or fullness.
  2. Low calorie sweeteners help to reduce calorie intake when used in place of higher calorie ingredients.
  3. Low calorie sweeteners can enhance weight loss under real-life conditions when used as part of a healthy, balanced weight loss program that strives to incorporate lifestyle changes.
  4. Low calorie sweeteners may have a beneficial effect on post-meal glucose and insulin levels in healthy individuals, as well as in people with diabetes.

Like diet sodas, zero-calorie flavored, sparkling waters are a wonderful choice for people who want to balance their calorie intake by limiting calories from beverages. And with so many flavors to choose from today, there’s a sparkling water to fit every occasion, from family picnics and summer pool parties to kids’ baseball games!

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, 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, she consults with a variety of food and beverage clients on issues related to nutrition and health.

 

 

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Tags: Health National Blog Choice
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What’s in Your Cooler?

Pat Baird, MA, RDN, FAND

Outdoor picnics, concerts, and social events are in full swing -- which means packing smart meals and beverages to bring along. However, it doesn’t mean you have to leave behind your food and beverage choices. Below are a few of my tips for staying hydrated this summer, while including your favorite options.

  1. Plan outings the same way as any other meal or snack time to avoid a dull picnic hamper. Coordinate your outing with your group in advance to ensure the best mix of fresh foods and tasty treats.
  2. Hydration is a health essential for people of all ages. Adequate amounts of fluid are important to maintain body temperature, digest food properly, and perform a variety of biological processes.  While water may be top of mind for most people when they think about hydration, we get water from a variety of beverages and foods.  All of them count.
  3. Quench your thirst. The latest recommendations from the Institute of Medicine advise that adults use thirst as their guide for how much to hydrate.  Keep in mind that they specified this meant fluid from all sources: food and beverages combined.
  4. Include options. Don’t forget to pack choices -- water, juice, milk, soda, or even ice tea.  Diet soda is a good hydration option for people looking to save calories and stay refreshed.  Juice provides vitamins and minerals, especially electrolytes like potassium that may be lost with sweating, while flavored milks offer nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.  Summer fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, peaches, and nectarines are also high in water and tasty additions to any cooler. 

So before your next outing be sure to plan a variety of food and beverage choices to offer the best choices for everyone and, most importantly, maintain optimal hydration.

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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