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ICYMI: Shoddy Science Shields Paternalistic Pop Tax

Americans for Food and Beverage Choice

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

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

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

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Tags: Health National Advocacy Taxes
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Soda Taxes vs Dietary Guidelines: Which Can Best Improve Our Diets?

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN

Are you one of the millions of people who eagerly awaited the release of each new Harry Potter book over the past 20 years and snatched up a copy to read as soon as it came out? That sort of describes how registered dietitian nutritionists, like me, feel about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). A new edition is published every five years to provide health professionals and policy makers with the latest nutrition science to guide our eating advice for the nation.

I know that probably doesn’t sound as exciting as a day at Hogwarts Academy, but it supplies me with many of the tricks of the trade I need to do my job!

The most recent edition of the DGA was published this year, so it’s still fresh on my mind. A key message throughout the 200+ page document is the importance of dietary patterns over single foods or nutrients in determining diet quality.  The DGA define dietary patterns as:

“...the quantities, proportions, variety or combinations of different foods and beverages in diets, and the frequency with which they are habitually consumed.”

It goes on to say that a healthy eating pattern should include everything from vegetables and fruits to grains, dairy, protein and even oils. It also says our eating patterns should limit excess saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium.


“As you can see, there’s much more we need to include in our diets than exclude to be healthy.”


This all came to mind as I followed the news of soda taxes being proposed in several cities across the country this year. It made me wonder how taxing sugar-sweetened beverages was going to help Americans achieve the goals outlined in the DGA? Reducing added sugars is important, but it shouldn’t overshadow all of the other ways Americans can improve their diets - or worse yet - lead them to think reducing added sugars is the only thing that matters.  And sadly, there may be some evidence of just that.

Soda consumption in the U.S. has been declining for the past 30 years while obesity and unhealthy diets persist. Maybe it’s time for legislators to propose bills that will help Americans achieve better dietary patterns instead of focusing so much on sugars since the DGA also clearly state, “...the eating pattern may be more predictive of overall health status and disease risk than individual foods or nutrients.” 

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 and has partnered with the Food and Beverage Industry to spread this message. 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: National Taxes
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When The News Tells Tales About Soda Taxes, What Do You Believe?

Americans For Food and Beverage Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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Tags: Health National Advocacy Taxes
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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 Hurt Consumers

Americans for Food and Beverage Choice

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

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

Stay tuned for more misguided motives behind beverage taxes.

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Tags: National Advocacy Taxes Blog
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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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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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Tags: Taxes BeverageTax Blog
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Can We Tax Our Way to Better Diets?

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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