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Can We Tax Our Way to Better Diets?

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN

If your kids aren’t doing well in school, do you tell them they just have to give up video games and they’ll do better? Of course not! Even if they never played another video game for the rest of their lives, they’d still have to read books, complete assignments, and pass tests to attain those better grades.

The same is true for improving the quality of our diets or losing weight. It can’t be done by asking people to give up foods and beverages they enjoy, like soda. That’s simply not sustainable. A healthy and balanced diet requires eating the right foods in the right amounts and in the right frequency to get the desired results, with or without soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks.

The amazing thing about a well-planned diet, matched by regular exercise, is that you can actually have the occasional soft drink without “ruining” your health or gaining weight! It’s all about eating the foods that supply the nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy since nothing we remove from the diet can replace them.

While no food or beverage can cancel out the nutritional benefits of the other foods we eat, we can gain weight if we eat too many calories, including those found in the most nutritious foods. That means eating a strawberry-banana smoothie every day that is full of vitamin C, potassium, protein, and calcium can supply more calories than we need and result in weight gain over time. Those excess pounds can lead to obesity, and obesity can increase the risk for hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer no matter how many nutrients came with the calories.

So when you hear people blaming sugar-sweetened drinks for obesity or other health problems and propose to tax them or implement warning labels to improve our diets, remind them that’s not how good nutrition works - just like banning video games at home won’t make kids get better grades in school.  

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, "The Everyday RD," is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.


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