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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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Why We Still Need Experts in the Information Age

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN

I was at a meeting with my tax accountant last April and she had a can of diet soda on her desk when I arrived. “You must think I’m terrible for drinking this stuff” she said, but added, “the caffeine gives me the boost I need when putting in late hours during tax season and the sugar-free option helps me avoid unwanted calories.”

While I’m usually the one asking her for professional advice when we’re together, this was clearly a situation where she needed my expertise, so I asked her why she thought I would disapprove of her beverage choice. Her answer surprised us both.

She said she had seen so many alarming reports about sugar and artificial sweeteners that she simply believed all sweet tasting drinks must be bad for her. Then when I asked her where she had read these reports, she admitted she didn’t have a clue. “They’re all over the Internet” she sheepishly said.  She went on to say that must sound pretty foolish coming from a person who deals in the cold hard facts of accounting, but when it came to nutrition facts, it was all a blur to her.

I told her I could relate to her feelings since I am equally baffled by financial matters, but fortunately, I could rely on her expertise to set me straight. Now I was going to return the favor.

I explained that sweet drinks – whether made with sugar, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners –could be a regular part of her diet as long as all of her nutritional needs were being met and she did not exceed her energy requirements. The problem isn’t the sweet drinks, I told her; it’s not getting the second half of that equation right.

To make the point hit home I explained diet and exercise were like an accounting ledger. The nutrients column needs daily deposits and the activity column needs regular expenditures. “Good nutrition is all about checks and balances,” I said, not any single food or ingredient. If you budget properly you can “afford” to eat anything, just like a good financial budget allows you to buy what you want. She nodded in agreement.

When our visit was over she thanked me for the gentle nudge to be more critical of where she gets her food and nutrition information, and said if she has a question, she’ll consult an expert. “You have my number” I told her, “and don’t be afraid to use it for expert advice.”

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 National Obesity Blog
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Exercise and Nutrition: A Balancing Act

Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD

May is Exercise is Medicine Month, an annual initiative of the American College of Sports Medicine to emphasize the essential role exercise plays in an overall plan to promote good health and prevent chronic disease.

As a registered dietitian nutritionist who taught in a cardiac rehabilitation program for 13 years alongside an exercise physiologist, I know firsthand that nutrition and exercise go hand-on-hand to support heart health. And in my own life, I also realize the importance of balancing nutrition and activity to maintain good health, feel better and allow flexibility in my food choices.

Six years ago I needed to lose about 20 pounds, so I downloaded a smart phone app to track my food intake and physical activity. The app calculates your calorie level to lose weight. As you enter your exercise, meals and snacks it keeps a running total of the calories you’ve consumed and expended along with the number you have left for the day.

 By recording my food and exercise, I successfully lost 20 pounds in four months. Once I reached my goal, the app gave me a “raise” of about 500 calories/day. The good news is I continued to track my food intake and activity every day so I’ve maintained the weight loss within ±2 pounds for six years.

And, no, I don’t feel deprived! The app makes it easy to indulge sometimes and balance it by eating fewer calories at another meal or exercising more. For instance, I love soft-serve ice cream with real sugar so I make room for a 4-ounce portion several nights a week. On the other hand, I like drinking diet soda so I save the calories I would consume in a regular soda to use for something else. If I overdo one day, my goal is to come out even on exercise and food calories at the end of the week. 

With summer right around the corner, warmer weather and longer days will make it easier to be active outdoors. Challenge yourself to move more so you can enjoy summer’s barbecues and picnics without gaining weight. Just be sure to balance the calories you eat with adequate exercise.

 

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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Don’t Buy the Hype: Soda Taxes Don't Solve Obesity

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 two of our five-part series, we'll take a look at how these grocery taxes affect public health.

Will a soda tax solve obesity? No. It’s completely misleading to suggest that soda intake is a standalone risk factor driving obesity, or other complex health conditions for that matter. CDC data clearly shows that as soda intake has declined, obesity rates have continued to rise. In other words, soda is not the culprit some claim. Also, historically, soda taxes have not helped health. When it comes to weight gain and obesity, there are factors we cannot control (i.e., genetics) and ones we can (i.e., overall diet and activity). This issue is obviously bigger than a single source of calories. That’s why claiming this tax is a cure-all is so very misleading.

Stay tuned for more misguided motives behind beverage taxes.

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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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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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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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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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Level the Playing Field

Carol Berg Sloan, RDN

A few evenings ago, I ran to the store to pick up some groceries in preparation for a game day party I was hosting. Among the cheese, chips, and sodas I bought, I made sure to get some veggies and water for those who wanted to keep their evenings balanced.

The family in front of me were similarly preparing for the game and the week ahead, stocking up on breads, meats, fruit, sports drinks, and so on. They had, what seemed to me, a very average, balanced shopping cart. When they went to pay, I noticed that, like many other Americans, they used their SNAP card- which reminded me of some articles I’d read earlier in the week.

Some politicians are proposing the elimination of candy, sugar sweetened beverages, and other treats from the SNAP program. As a nutritionist, I couldn't disagree more with the elimination of single food categories as a means to improving public health. Why deprive this, or any, family of their treats? Let’s treat SNAP participants like adults and let them make the best choices for themselves and their families. Let’s prioritize educating people about balance- rather than trying to control what they put in their grocery carts. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack supports this approach and so do I. 

I hope that family enjoyed their game day chips ‘n’ dips as much as we did!

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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Tags: National Obesity Blog
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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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Do you really need to spring clean your diet?

Amber Pankonin MS, RDN, CSP, LMNT

Every spring, I love to spring clean my home and I religiously go through every closet in my home to clear the clutter. But as a Registered Dietitian, I’ve noticed that consumers also want to spring clean their diets aka going on fad diets or detox cleanses in order to be ready for swimsuit season.

I’ve even seen consumers toss out every item in their pantry or refrigerator thinking that this will be a great way to get in shape for summer.  The truth is these fads only contribute to the misinformation and oversimplification of nutrition science.

And the problem with dumbing down nutrition science is that these well-intentioned lifestyle magazine or blog recommendations to get fit are rooted in low-quality science can do more harm than good.

So, instead of turning to these drastic measures, we must remember that numerous studies – including The CHOICE study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  – have repeatedly demonstrated the benefits of a balanced lifestyle, including diet beverages, as well as low-calorie sweeteners, which are in thousands of foods and beverages – in helping to reduce calorie intake.

This spring don’t forget that the key to a success is not demonizing a single nutrient or product, but balancing one’s calories among all the foods and beverages we enjoy with those we burn through physical activity and exercise.

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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Tags: Health National Obesity Blog
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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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Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN

One of the liabilities of being a registered dietitian is that we are asked a lot of questions about food and nutrition, even when we’re not on duty. That happened to me recently while looking over menu choices at an international buffet. The woman in line next to me saw “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist” on my name badge so sought my opinion without any introduction.

Her question reminded me of how eager people are to have “yes” or “no” answers about eating certain foods when what they really need to know is “how much” and “how often.” 

Let me explain.

Herbs and spices have long been used for medicinal purposes in addition to flavoring our food. Over time scientific studies have been able to demonstrate the health benefits of some of these ‘”traditional” therapies, like mint for an upset stomach and cinnamon for blood sugar control. But just like taking a drug, there is a right dose and right frequency that provide those benefits.

Now back to the woman on the buffet line. She wanted to know if she should take the Chicken Tikka Masala for her lunch since it had turmeric in it, and she heard turmeric can prevent tumor growth. She went on to say she had a strong family history of *** cancer and was concerned about finding a lump. While that is a lot of information to get from a complete stranger, I couldn’t help but wonder if she really believed a single meal from this buffet would lower her risk of cancer? I also hoped she was taking other steps to protect her health. Then I told her if she liked tikka masala this version looked very good.

This encounter reminded of how easy it is for people to think they shouldn’t consume any foods or drinks sweetened with sugar because they see headlines that proclaim “sugar is toxic” or “soda causes obesity.” While neither claim is true, what gets lost in the headlines is the “how much” and “how often” part of the discussion and the other factors that contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Eating a wide variety of foods and balancing your energy intake with adequate physical activity are part of a healthy lifestyle. So are getting enough rest, managing stress and not using tobacco products. And if you enjoy sugar-sweetened beverages or those made with low-calorie sweeteners, they can be part of a healthy lifestyle, too.

It all comes down to how much and how often and what else you’re doing to make all of the pieces of a healthy lifestyle add up right.  When you do you’ll find life really can be sweet with sugar and spice!

 

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 National Obesity Blog
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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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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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Living Well with Options

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, Carmichael, California

I celebrated an important anniversary earlier this month, the anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in 1979. I’ve not only lived but lived well with diabetes for 36 years, and there are many factors that contribute to my good health and happiness along the way—including the variety of food and beverage options all around us that promote good health.

I first need to recognize the love and support of my family. My dad had Type I for 56 years. My mom has been living with Type I for 30 years. Yes, she was diagnosed after I was, which has led to a few family jokes about how contagious diabetes must be. It’s not, but my parents’ positive attitudes about living well with diabetes certainly have!

I also need to appreciate the important role healthcare professionals have played in my life. So many have been kind, respectful, and treated me like an individual. They relied on good science to give the best care, but they also relied on good sense to give the best advice based on my personality and lifestyle choices.

And finally, I need to thank the companies that produce foods and beverages with low and no- calorie sweeteners. Drinking a diet beverage is not only an appealing choice for me a few afternoons a week, but I appreciate all of the research that supports the role of diet drinks in healthful and balanced diets, including a recent review article published last month in Current Obesity Reports.

The author evaluated data from observational, laboratory, and intervention studies of humans that looked at relationships between low- and no-calorie sweeteners, dietary intake, and weight. Observational studies can provide some insights into associations (not cause & effect). Laboratory studies can provide a glimpse into relationships at one point in time. Intervention studies, in particular randomized, controlled trails (RCTs), provide the strongest data for relationships between dietary intake and health outcomes.

Science has again supported -- through numerous intervention studies in both children and adults -- that that low- and no- calorie sweeteners tend to reduce intake of sugar-sweetened foods, and to facilitate weight loss and management. This confirmation is beyond great news for anyone, like me, looking to make informed decisions rooted in science not trends. Cheers to good health and the enjoyment of a wide variety of foods and beverages!

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, is an award-winning dietitian/nutritionist (RDN), farmer’s daughter, and published author who is inspired by farmers, flavor, and fun! Having had Type I diabetes since age 7, Amy is living proof of the power of mindful choices when it comes to health and well-being.

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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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