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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.

Don’t Buy the Hype: Soda Taxes affect the future of our communities and our personal liberties

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 four of our five-part series, we'll take a look at how these grocery taxes affect the communities they're implemented in.

How will this affect the future of our communities and our personal liberties? Soda taxes can cause people to take their grocery shopping to neighboring communities. Over the long term, this harms small businesses and jeopardizes the jobs they provide. Also, when politicians start taxing common items there is no telling where the taxes will begin and end. This is a slippery slope, which can incite politicians to continue to dictate – and limit – our personal choices.

Stay tuned for more misguided motives behind beverage taxes.

Tags: Health National Blog Balance
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New Food Labels are coming!

Pat Baird, MA, RDN, FAND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: Health National Advocacy Blog
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