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Real world issues and nutrition education

Carol Sloan, RD

Nutrition consultant to the Food and Beverage Industry


Last Thursday I followed the elections with the rest of America, and was eye-pulled by Measure D, the “soda tax” initiative in Berkeley. The majority voted “yes” for additional taxes (1 cent per ounce) on sodas and other select sugar sweetened beverages, to be directed to the distributor and likely be passed onto the consumer.

Having worked in a school district for several years with the charge to decrease type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, and obesity in K-8 students, (not all too different from the concerns of my Bay area neighbors…) never did nutrition and health educators point to one food or beverage as the cause for these health issues.  Instead we taught portion control, label reading, and to enjoy consuming a variety of beverages including water. We shared the details on the sugar content of sodas but also talked about cookies, chips, candy, and how to fit all foods and beverages into a regular meal plan. I could see the students listening intently, absorbing this knowledge to take home to share with their families. These kids were learning to make their own informed decisions on what to eat and drink -without added costs to persuade their purchases or the government in their groceries.

I believe that the proponents of Measure D had good intentions, but sin taxes are not the way to go. Limiting calories in general is a tip I share with clients, but I would never discourage the consumption of any specific food or beverage group. Nutrition education that encourages portion control, daily physical activity, and a balance of calories is what can, and does, work.

I’m sure the proponents of Measure D are still celebrating their “success” in Berkeley.  However, I see the majority of the population in small towns and cities across the nation trying to manage daily groceries on a budget, to get their kids to school on time, and to provide a healthy dinner after working a long day. It may be too late to educate Berkeley, but let’s celebrate and support these families by continuing to provide nutrition education about soda and other drinks utilizing sources such as the Clear on Calories initiative or the Calories Count initiative.

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