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  • Life in Balance: The 80-20 Rule

    Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN

    I was talking with a colleague who was lamenting about how many people feel guilty about their food choices, and she asked me what could be done to help people feel better about their choices.

    For me, the best way to approach this guilt about food and beverage choices is to teach people about the importance of balancing their calories with their activity, not obsessively restricting or taxing their choices through government regulations.  

    The more I thought about her question, I thought about the 80-20 rule I follow. Make 80 percent of your food and beverage choices healthful ones. Allow the other 20 percent to provide enjoyment. This approach frees people from perfectionism and deprivation, and allows some liberty and flexibility.

    A recently published study showed that women who feel guilty about their food choices report less control over their eating and are less able to maintain their weight. Worry, concern, and guilt are not helpful when it comes to managing your eating and your weight, but having a strategy is helpful.

    When I grocery shop I focus on filling the cart with healthy essentials—lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, cheese, yogurt, nuts, whole grain breads, tortillas, and pastas, and some meat, poultry and seafood. I may also throw in some chocolate milk, potato chips, gelato, or a new flavor of diet soda for my husband and me to try. And if I’m planning a vacation road trip, I'll buy a bag of Crunchy Cheese Puffs, my all-time favorite snack food that's a wonderful source of vitamins F and P (F for fun, P for pleasure!).

    So next time you are in the grocery store or at a restaurant, know that you have the options and information you need to make the choices that are right for you and your family – most importantly allow yourself to choose some foods and beverages because you want and enjoy them. 

    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.

  • Science vs. Sensationalism

    Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, LDN

    Registered dietitians have long known that nutrition misinformation abounds and that healthy eating can be complicated, requiring an individualized approach. Is it possible that the mainstream media is catching up to this idea? This past week’s news featured prominent stories about self-proclaimed celebrity bloggers and diet experts, well known for spreading rumors about food and dishing out bad dietary advice.

    Shock value, alarmist headlines, and misinformation run rampant in the online news landscape, which only serves to get attention and can lead readers to make poor decisions. The problem with such poor advice is that they often promote singling out one caloric source as either ‘toxic’ or ‘the miracle you've been waiting for.’ But there is no one approach to nutrition that works for everyone.

    In the big picture, the scientific study of how diet impacts health and disease is a fairly new science. The best approach is to use these moderation principles:

    • Include variety: Don’t over-consume any one nutrient; embrace them all!
    • Know your portions: Use measuring cups to ensure you’re using good judgement with portion sizes.
    • Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
    • Plan: Choose foods from the basic food groups first (grains, vegetables, fruits, protein, and dairy) then you can allow extra calories from small portions of treats like soda or candy.
    • Find ways to add more activity to your day-to-day routine.

    It may sound trite, and oversimplified, but these principles will withstand the test of time, no matter what new study is reported. It’s up to you to make the choice that’s right for you when it comes finding that balance.


    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.

  • 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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