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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.

  • 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.   

  • 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.

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