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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.

  • 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. 



  • 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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