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Can the Food Police or Tax Man Improve Your Health?

I’m a nutrition consultant for various food and beverage companies, and I am sometimes paid to write, but my opinions are my own.

A state senator in Cali is trying to get a warning label put onto soda pop and other sugary beverages. Something to the effect of: “This could kill you”. [Ok, joking aside, he actually would like it to state: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay."] In addition, retailers would have to post warnings wherever sweet beverages are sold, otherwise face a $500 penalty.

The idea of adding a warning label to foods and beverages takes its lead from alcohol and tobacco warnings (do people who drink and smoke read those?). Unlike tobacco in which any amount harms, soda, like alcohol, can be enjoyed in moderation. Alcohol should not be consumed during pregnancy (a time when every bite counts). While even a small amount of alcohol may cause harm, soft drinks are simply “empty calories” that do not promote growth of a developing fetus.

Most reasonable people understand that obesity is not caused by one food or ingredient. The key to correcting the problem is education, counseling by qualified health professionals (i.e. registered dietitian-nutritonists, RDNs) and creating environments that encourage more daily walking. It takes more than a doctor or food label telling a patient: “Too much soda is bad for your health”. Making changes in dietary behaviors takes time, and most people need very specific advice.

The state of Illinois on the other hand, wants to add a tax. This would hit soft drinks, other sweetened beverages, including sports drinks (so all you cross country runners and cyclists out there – you will pay to fuel!).

Let me tell you how it will be. There’s one for you, nineteen for me. Cos I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman… 

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street. If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat. If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat. If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

~ The Beatles, Taxman

If obesity is costing the nation $150 billion (yes, that’s with a B), it’s not time to tax, it’s time to hire a lot more registered dietitians in medical practices and outpatient settings! RDNs can help a patient understand why they may be consuming too many sugary drinks, what to replace them with, and how to balance out their whole diet in a way that they can successfully manage. RDNs also act as coaches to help the patient follow other important doctor’s orders.

People also need to want to lose weight, and if they do, they should have access to appropriate support. Taxing all sugary beverages, or adding simple warning labels, is only going to increase prices at the grocery store, yet get us nowhere in terms of public health.

Can Medical Nutrition Therapy Help You?

freedigitalphotos.net

Nutrition is a vital part of being well, and an even more important part to getting well (or healing). It’s a critical part of prevention, yet if I surveyed physicians or lay people, and asked them “Does diet therapy work?” chance are at least 70 percent of them would say: “No”. (For one thing, they have no idea what diet therapy really is).

Why is that? My theory is that the delivery of medical nutrition therapy is either underutilized or delivered by the wrong individual. Registered dietitians-nutritionists (RDNs) are nutrition experts that are educated and trained to understand human physiology and how diet relates to it. RDNs also are trained to provide nutrition assessments, and behavior counseling to deliver current diet therapies for both wellness and disease.

Just as I would not propose to offer you physical therapy or take your blood pressure, I wouldn’t expect a nurse or physical therapist to be able to help you lower your blood lipids or counsel you about diet and diverticulitis. Nor would I expect them to know how to interpret your BMI (body mass index – which is still an appropriate tool to include in nutrition assessment). They don’t have the training in nutrition assessment, nor do their fields of expertise mandate that they keep abreast of the latest epidemiological studies on diet and disease, and the resulting protocols.

Perhaps this is why I chose to no longer work in the clinical setting, but instead in research and nutrition communications. It is extremely frustrating to see how underutilized RDNs are, both locally and all over the nation. I absolutely know that people with diabetes, heart disease (high blood pressure, congestive heart failure), pregnancy, anemia, gastrointestinal disorders (such as Celiac, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), or obesity, would have better clinical outcomes if every single one of them were referred to an RDN for a diet prescription and counseling. Sometimes it could even take just two simple 30 to 60 minute visits, and many insurance carriers now cover it. This should be routine care in my opinion, and there’s plenty of research that shows that diet therapy and lifestyle interventions, when delivered properly, work. 

It is the in-person delivery of this diet therapy that leads to positive outcomes, not just knowing what the dietary guidelines may be. 

Consider this:

  • Most people with a psychiatric disorder require cognitive behavior therapy from trained therapists to direct and coach them, for best outcomes.
  • Most people with joint pain or a limited/altered range of motion issue benefit from a physical therapist to act as both director and coach, to aid in healing, and possibly eliminate need for surgery or limit use of medications.
  • Most people who would benefit from diet therapy need a registered dietitian to properly assess them, and direct and coach them. No other health professional has this unique skill set.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the governing board for RDNs), Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) is:

“…an essential component of comprehensive health care. Individuals with a variety of conditions and illnesses can improve their health and quality of life by receiving medical nutrition therapy. During an MNT intervention, RDs counsel clients on behavioral and lifestyle changes required to impact long-term eating habits and health.”

Medical Nutrition Therapy is not just a “Go on a diet” or “Try following a low fat diet to lower your cholesterol” directive. It is a clearly coordinated process, provided by a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, which includes:

  1. Performing a comprehensive nutrition assessment to determine a nutrition diagnosis
  2. Planning and implementing a personalized nutrition intervention
  3. Monitoring and evaluating an individual’s progress over subsequent visits 

So the next time your doctor wants to add another medication for blood pressure, cholesterol, or possibly a gastrointestinal problem – ask for a referral to a local registered dietitian. Actually applying appropriate medical nutrition therapy after a proper nutrition assessment, and just saying, “I tried a diet”, are two completely different things.

Uncomplicated Food

People tend to make food very complicated. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is more fixation on food being “free” of things, than being full of things (i.e. important nutrients like protein, vitamin A, C, B, iron, calcium, etc).

And of course we all know sugar is evil (tongue in cheek)…..

Ha! Don’t make it so complicated. You can feed your family simple foods and rest easy. Putting together a healthy meal involves 3 simple steps:

  1. Choose fresh food from at least 3 food groups to plan the meal
  2. Find easy recipes that appeal to you that you can count on during busy days (and let’s face it, they’re all busy)
  3. Enlist the family to help out (do some simple chopping or prepping, set table, clean up, store leftovers)

Take a peak at a recent meal I put on the table -

So simple and delicious, well-balanced, and tasty. Leftover chicken breasts went on a salad or sandwich the following two days for lunch.

How to:

  1. Bring large stock pot of water to boil.
  2. Carefully cut boneless, skinless split chicken breasts, cutting through thickness of breast crosswise to form 3 pieces, about 1/4 inch-1/2 inch thick. (I do this when the breasts are still partly frozen – it’s easier to handle)
  3. Mix a few herbs together in a small bowl (I used oregano, thyme leaves, garlic powder, ground pepper. You can also use Italian seasoning, basil – whatever you prefer). Rub the herb mixture over each side of each piece of chicken.
  4. Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in non stick skillet. Lightly brown each cutlet on both sides (about 2-3 minutes each side).
  5. Pour about 1/4 cup tomato sauce (jarred or homemade) into a baking dish. Place cooked cutlets on top. Top with another 1/2 cup of sauce. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons part skim Mozzarella and 2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese over chicken pieces.
  6. Bake chicken in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.
  7. While chicken is baking place 1/2 pound of pasta into boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8-9 minutes.
  8. Prepare fresh green beans – snip ends off beans, rinse well in cool water. Place beans in small baking dish, add 1/2 inch of water, microwave for 5 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain off water. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
  9. Dinner is ready!
  10. The kids enjoyed a glass of milk with dinner.

5 Easy Tips for Adopting DASH Diet Goals

The DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has been voted best diet for the fourth year in a row, so more and more people are trying to adopt it. It not only helps lower blood pressure, but can help you lose weight too.

As you work toward the goal to reduce sodium, add good fats, and add more fruits and vegetables into your diet, keep these easy tips in mind:

  1. Remove the salt shaker from the table. While you may use a bit of salt in cooking, do your best to not add more at the table. Out of sight, out of mind, and your taste buds will adjust. Use other natural salt-free means to add flavor – citrus juices or peels, fresh or dried herbs, ground pepper.
  2. Add fruit to every meal. Try sliced banana on whole grain toast in the morning. Keep berries washed and ready-to-eat in a airtight container in the fridge. Have an apple for your mid-day snack. Incorporate fruit into after-dinner desserts (think: Pear or berry cobbler).
  3. Add nuts. Nuts are great to snack on as is, and also make veggie dishes more delicious. Try adding sliced nuts to tossed salads, or add slivered almonds to steamed green beans. Toss cashews into a quick and easy chicken and veggie stir-fry.
  4. Keep vegetables on hand. Make sure veggies make it to your grocery list, so that you can incorporate them into your diet. Add more veggies to your sandwiches – bean sprouts, spinach leaves, thinly sliced bell peppers or cucumbers – all make great sandwich toppers. Keep bagged vitamin-packed shredded cabbage mix on hand. Substitute for iceberg lettuce in your sandwich wraps. Or, in place of noodles or rice, saute shredded cabbage for an Asian dish.
  5. Add beans, fish and lean meats. Learn how easy it is to prepare fish and seafood! Try a fruit-vegetable mixture to top your fish or chicken. Make this easy bean soup for dinner, and use it through the week for lunch, or turn add it to wraps.

It’s easy to add these nutritious DASH foods into your diet with a little bit of planning. Make your plates more balanced and colorful, and you’ll be on your way to better health!

 

Set Yourself Free From Food Rules

A colleague recently pointed out how people are often more worried about what their food is “free” of (sugar-free, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, gluten-free, wheat-free, fat-free), as opposed to the important stuff that the food is providing (protein, antioxidant vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals). Not to mention the enjoyment good food can bring.

courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

I guess I’m becoming a lady curmudgeon, but this is probably one of the more annoying diet trends to me. Why are you spending so much energy on finding foods or ingredients to avoid?

It’s so much better to be grateful for all of the nutrients that you have access to, and can enjoy each day, as they keep your body chugging along.

There’s no guarantee that a particular diet will “prevent or cure” cancer, diabetes, heart disease – or allow you to live forever. But you will feel and function better, while you are alive, when you eat reasonably healthy food most of the time, stay active, and maintain a healthy weight.

Problem is, nobody can agree on what a healthy diet is. And diet is only one piece of the healthy lifestyle puzzle. I’ve given my opinion on it numerous times, but as a society we’ve become so judgey about food. You know, think about the time you see someone buying a box of Hostess Ho-Hos® as a fun treat for their child’s lunchbox – “Oh the horror!!”  – And you may assume “that mother feeds her child nothing but junk!” which may be completely false. You have the right to choose whatever products you want, but putting the country on an organic, vegan or grass-fed beef diet, isn’t realistically going to solve our obesity problems.

“I don’t allow milk in our home. Humans weren’t meant to drink milk from other animals”

“I only buy organic vegetables”

“I do not let my children eat potato chips. We’re having homemade banana chips and agave nectar sweetened tea for my daughter’s 5th birthday”

“I don’t buy packaged cookies, unless they’re made with organic ingredients”

What has eating come to, and where is it going? In my profession, we are constantly battling the popular media who squeaks out premature news on a daily basis. Rather than rely on nutrition experts, consumers get diet and nutrition related news shoved in their face on the daily. And most of the time, it’s completely conflicting. No wonder you’re confused!

Am I the only one who sees the irony in a set of “food rules” that “allow” a powdered protein drink mix, a supplement pill, or a cellophane-wrapped “meal replacement bar”, but bread is absolutely off limits!? [while "Big Food" gets a bad rap, many "health-nut" sources also make a bit of cash - take for example, this $60 powder - and note that this hemp protein product only provides 2 grams of protein per serving]

Now, don’t misread me, protein drink mixes and grab-and-go nutrition bars may have a place in someone’s diet – just as many other packaged foods. But there’s not one plan for all. Be careful however not to tout manufactured foods wearing a “health halo” as superior to another sort of packaged food or treat.

MYTH: Science is not to be trusted, and everyone’s an expert

Nutrition is a science. News about it should be sourced from peer-reviewed textbooks and journals, and from people with degrees in nutrition. Can you benefit from the information a lay person provides who has managed to lose 60 pounds and keep it off for 3 years? Definitely. Should that person be writing up new policy guidelines for nutrition or making public statements about diet and public health? No. Not any more than a person who managed to submit their own tax return should hang an accounting shingle, or write a blog titled “everything you wanted to know about the IRS”.

Is research science flawless? Of course not. But I want my science to come from people with advanced degrees who have read and studied a topic much, much more than everyone else with an opinion on the subject. An “expert” is someone who has been formally educated, and exhaustively continues his or her education (reading, trained, additional formal education) on a particular topic. “Comprehensive knowledge” takes a lot of time, thought, and reading.

In today’s world of Tweets and Internet “news”, it can get difficult to distinguish the experts from the frauds, in any field, for any topic. A colleague tuned me into a recent Twitter conversation in which a “science teacher” called her out for recommending fruit as part of a healthy diet. This guy was damning fruit, claiming it’s “manufactured to contain more fructose”! What are you talking about? And you’re a “science teacher”? Yikes. Buy your kids some science books folks. Fruit is good for you. Don’t eat the entire watermelon yourself.

Despite what you may believe to be true, or want to be true, what is actually true is that our human bodies are pretty darn adaptable. What’s also true is that there are some things in our genes that we don’t have any control over at all. Yes, I firmly believe that diet and exercise can have a positive effect, and in many cases, have a disease-prevention effect to a certain degree. Nonetheless, the basics of including whole foods (fruit, vegetables, leafy greens, intact grains, nuts, seeds) in your diet every day, and balancing it out with small amounts of fat, meat or dairy (or not if you are are Vegan) will sustain you.

The simple answer to “How do I improve my diet?” Buy less packages. Buy more whole food. Create more balance. Period.

 

 

 

10 Tips for Healthy Eating – For Your Body and Mind

You probably read a lot about what’s healthy to eat, or what’s not. But I contend that eating habits and behaviors associated with food (healthy food or junk food) are more important than hyper-focusing on exactly which healthy foods to eat (don’t get me wrong – including healthy foods in your diet is still important). If your habits and attitudes toward eating are healthy, the rest falls into place. Since it’s National Nutrition Month®, getting your behaviors in order is a sure way to Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right!

As we age, our bodies change. There’s no real fighting it. You can maintain a healthy or reasonable weight, but your body simply isn’t going to be the same at 40, 50 or 60 as it was at 25 or 30 years of age. A pinch of fat at your middle, or a little flab on your arm or back, is normal for both men and women. Focus on the positive. Think about what you are doing to maintain your internal health and well being. Think about using exercise and eating well to stay strong, and because it is the right thing to do for your body.

Ten ideas to feed a healthy mind and body:

  1. Eat your fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants. Take advantage of fresh berries in season, and keep apples and bananas on hand all year for a good dose of fiber and antioxidants. Try something new.
  2. Sip water all day long. Adequate hydration keeps our skin looking healthy and helps our bodies mobilize fatty acids.
  3. Have a healthy breakfast. Everyone has time for a small bowl of whole grain cereal with non fat or low fat milk or Greek yogurt. Top with fresh berries or a sliced banana. Try a 2-egg omelet (whole eggs or 3 whites) with whole grain toast (On Sundays, you can even make a few omelets, or bake eggs in muffin cups and freeze for the week ahead). Muffins get a bad rap because they are too large. A small bran muffin with peanut butter and 8 ounces nonfat milk is perfectly fine. Bake your own small muffins.
  4. Eat fish.The omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish such as trout or salmon are good for you. They may help ward off depression and lower your risk of heart disease and arthritis. If you can’t eat two servings of fish weekly, talk to your doctor about a fish oil supplements daily.

    sattva, freedigitalphotos.net

  5. Try yoga.Yoga practice is a great way to find your mind-body connection. It allows you to view yourself from within and focus on the positive aspects of your body.
  6. Get your calcium and vitamin D. Pre-menopausal women should take in 1000 milligrams of calcium daily or 1200 milligrams if post-menopausal. Men need calcium too, and studies have shown that those who include low fat dairy daily, have better weight control, and lower blood pressure. Drinking two or three glasses of nonfat milk daily is ideal. If you are not getting the calcium you need daily (2-4 servings of non fat or low fat dairy) then consider a supplement.
  7. Be mindful. We’re often in such a hurry right? Try to set some rules for eating. For instance, do not do anything else but eat when you are eating. This means no more lunches at your desk or breakfasts standing up. Sit down, look at your food, chew slowly and enjoy the taste of the food.
  8. Focus on the positive. What can you do with your body? If you can do five push ups, celebrate that. Keep working at it each week until you can do eight, and then have another celebration. Don’t you feel better after eating a great meal that includes vegetables and lean protein (as opposed to overeating or eating too many nutrient void foods)? Watch your body with your mind and see how good that feels!
  9. Take a walk. Even if you only have time for a 10-15 minute stroll, getting fresh air is good for the body and mind. Studies have shown that we utilize more calories walking or jogging outside than on a treadmill. Spring is coming! Get outside (put your sunscreen on)!
  10. Keep a journal. Writing down your eating and exercise habits will help you stay mindful and will help you set and achieve goals.

Smile! One step at a time, you can develop a stronger, healthier you, imperfect yet beautiful all the same.

Sowing Your Oats

A friend recently asked me about freezing oatmeal. She was concerned that her method of making steel cut oats ahead, and then freezing it in muffin cups for later use, may impact the nutrient level of the oatmeal.

The minimal, if any, nutrients lost in freezing cooked oats for use over the next week or two, certainly does not outweigh the heart-healthy benefits of eating oatmeal on a regular basis!

In addition, while steel cut oats are less processed (all oatmeal comes from oat groats – steel cut are chopped oat groats, usually chopped to the size of small seeds) there’s no real nutritional difference between steel cut, regular oats, and quick oats. Steel cut oats have a different texture which is more satisfying to some, but while they are ‘chewier’ they provide 4 grams of fiber per 150 calories, just like regular oats. Note: Quick Oats are not “Instant Oats”, which are more highly processed after flattening into flakes – they are chopped, pre-cooked, and dehydrated. In addition, sugar and salt is added. While they may be convenient to have on hand for travel or backpacking (look for lower sugar varieties), a better day-to-day choice is Quick Oats with a small amount of sugar added if you like.

Steel cut, regular oats, and quick oats, are all great heart-healthy, high fiber (4 grams per serving), low sodium (0 sodium) breakfast choices. Eat whichever you enjoy most.

Steel Cut oats offer similar nutrition (fiber, protein, fat, iron) to regular oats, but have a different texture and longer cooking time (about 30-35 minutes).

Regular oats have similar in nutrition to steel cut, but can be cooked in the microwave in 2-3 minutes, or on stove top in about 7-8.

The “old fashioned oats” are made by steaming the oat groats, then flattening them with rollers, which creates “flakes”. “Quick oats” are rolled even thinner, which allows them to cook faster.

Check with the Whole Grain Council for more information on grains and oats. In the meantime, consider my friend’s tip for making your mornings quick and easy!

 

Anita’s Easy Workday Steel Cut Oats

  1. On the weekend or your day off, cook 6 servings of steel cut oats according to package directions.
  2. Once cooked, pour into large 6-muffin large oil-sprayed (or smaller 12-muffin tin)
  3. Place in freezer until firm.
  4. Remove from freezer and place into zippered freezer bag
  5. In the morning, take out one oat “muffin”, place in microwave safe bowl, and microwave for 2 minutes or until soft. Add low fat milk, chopped nuts, fresh berries or bananas and enjoy!

 

Try A New Vegetable for National Nutriton Month®

When I was a kid, my father and grandfather grew a huge vegetable garden. Between the two of them we had a variety of tomatoes, peas, string beans, greens, squash, broccoli, corn, onions, potatoes, carrots, and beets. There’s a picture in my parent’s family album of me holding a gigantic beet with my grandpap. So I go way back with beets….

Some are saying they are the new “it” vegetable, so why not try some if you haven’t lately? They come in a couple of varieties – red and golden. (The red ones are my favorite, although they do stain your hands a bit, and can stain your clothes, so be careful when washing and peeling.)

Beets are full of fiber and antioxidants, so if you think you don’t like beets, try them a new way. They are wonderful roasted and eaten as a side or on a salad (add goat cheese and a few toasted nuts – heaven). When it’s time to fire up the grill, try sliced beets and spinach leaves on your next burger! A taste sensation!

Here is a simple how-to pictorial for roasting beets:

First peel the beets, then rinse. Cut them into large chunks, or slice them into rounds.

Toss cut beets into a baking dish, drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil, add a small pinch of salt. Roast for 30-45 minutes in a 400F oven.

Leftover beet tops – wash the greens, and steam in the microwave. Chop and eat as is, or add to another vegetable or grain dish.

Part II: Proposed Nutrition Facts Label – The Good, Bad and the Ugly

As a nutrition communication consultant I occasionally write about topics related to the food industry clients I may serve, but my blog topics, thoughts and opinions are my own.

I introduced you to my opinions on the proposed changes for the Nutrition Facts label. Now let’s take a look at what those changes could be.

THE GOOD
There are a few changes to the nutrition label that I do support: Realistic serving sizes; highlighting calories; and changes in fat labeling. A good example of currently flawed serving size labeling is a 20-ounce bottle of soda that lists 8 ounces as a serving. The majority of folks who purchase a 20-ounce bottled beverage are going to drink the whole thing, so the proposed labeling changes would require the entire bottle to be labeled as “one serving”.

I’m also okay with the new label proposal to remove the “calories from fat” line, as this information was never too useful, but Total Fat, Saturated Fat, and Trans Fats will continue to be on the label. Finally, making Calories more prominent will hopefully help cue consuming reduced portions of calorie-dense foods.

THE BAD
Sugar is one of the big three changes to the label. As opposed to the current label that lists Total Carbohydrate and Sugars, the new label proposes that an additional line labeled “Added Sugars” be included.

If I were to ask you: Which foods have added sugar in them? Perhaps – cookies, candy, soft drinks, juices, and bakery items would come to mind?

So you already have a pretty good idea which foods have added sugar right?

Sugar is sugar; even critics of the soft drink companies acknowledge that. The calories in soft drinks are from sugar. Thus, the sugar in them is actually expressed in a more meaningful and prominent way through the calorie labels, which is already in place.

THE UGLY
Forcing companies to list sugar as many as three times could also mislead consumers about how much sugar is actually in a product (not to mention the carbohydrate and sugar that’s already on the label anyway). As mentioned, there’s no question products such as regular soda provide sugar, but overall sugar intake is decreasing. CDC data shows added sugar from soda is down 39% since the year 2000. Sugar-sweetened beverages account for only 6% of calories in the average diet, according to government data. The proposed Added Sugar labeling is almost intentionally trying to leave the impression that products contain far more sugar than they do, and also draw attention to products with some added sugar that really aren’t playing a significant role in harming your health.

Finally, what will we do with this Added Sugar information? We’ve been down this road. The guidelines regarding how much sugar we should consume daily are fuzzy. The American Heart Association recommends only a maximum of 100 calories of added sugar daily for women, and 150 added sugar calories for men. The Institute of Medicine recommends that no more than 25% of your calories should be comprised of added sugar.

As a nutrition professional, I can’t recommend a one-fits-all strict guideline without considering age, size, medical history, and activity levels.

In my opinion the only thing that will come from adding the words “Added Sugars” to a label is more hysteria over sugar in the diet, leading to more disordered eating and perpetuating more nutrition misinformation (via misinterpreting a food for a dietary pattern).

So I leave you with this question:
1. Will the Added Sugars line on the label help you reduce the sugar in your diet, or are you already aware of the sources of added sugar in your diet?

 

Information Versus TMI (too much information): The Proposed Nutrition Facts Label – Part I

The ingredient and nutrition information on food product labels has evolved over the years. In 1990 the Nutrition Facts label was created and food manufacturers had to comply with this new labeling system that identified calories, serving sizes, vitamins and minerals, carbohydrate, protein, and some additional specifics in regard to fat in the food. I remember at that time having to spend a lot of time with my patients – explaining the information on the label and helping them understand the differences between total fat, saturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Fast forward 24 years and we are revising this food labeling system. Thinking back to the 1980s and 1990s, our attempt to highlight fat on labels, in order to help people reduce the fat in their diets, backfired, as food portions became larger, and new calorie-laden, fat-modified foods were created which saturated the market. In the end, we ended up a more obese population.

Yet the FDA claims that this new label will allow ‘greater understanding of nutrition science’.

Hmmn? Unless you want to read a lot of scientific journals and textbooks, the food label itself is not going to provide you with a greater understanding of nutrition science. One on one education from a registered dietitian could provide that, more instruction in elementary and secondary schools could provide that, but a nutrition label will not.

As the opening statement in this CNN story reads: “Choosing healthier foods in the grocery store may soon be a little easier.”

Really? Will the learning curve and a new food label make your grocery shopping easier promising you a healthier diet?

News flash: I can offer you three easy steps to choosing a healthier diet:

1.    Buy and eat more whole foods – foods that are-what-they-are – fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs, fresh meats, beans, fresh fish, milk, oats, rice, barley and other natural grains.

2.    Choose some slightly processed foods to round out life – pasta, whole grain bread (but not too much), and wholesome dairy foods like yogurt, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and other cheeses. Fruit juice, canned or frozen fruits or vegetables.

3.    Choose desserts, candy, sugary drinks, drink mixes, alcohol, chips, crackers, and other snack foods in moderation (as in ≤1 serving daily with occasional splurges on weekends, holidays or birthdays)

Real food is what should fill your kitchen and pantry and body, but you can also make room for some treats too – cookies, donuts, soda, juice, chips or crackers and packaged food for occasional convenience.

A new food label is not going to help America choose healthier foods. Packaged foods have been labeled for years, and it hasn’t helped reduce obesity or disease, which are in fact both increasing.