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.