I have been having a rough time sitting down to focus on my writing lately. I’ve been writing a regular nutrition column of some sort since 1995 when I penned my first column for the local Meadville Tribune in August (Fad Free RD), after visiting the County Fair. It was an article about “Fair Food”, and I concluded that most of it isn’t healthy, and that you should share it with someone so you can consume smaller portions (I would never deny your Funnel Cake). I also concluded that the turtle soup and fruit cups were the best choices.
Ah, 1995, when eating wasn’t that complicated.
Why am I having a hard time getting energized about writing sensible advice about eating and food? Because there is so much nonsense in the media now about nutrition, eating, and food, that it’s drowning out all of the common sense.
Here are just a few frustrations:
- Anybody, and everybody, is a self-proclaimed nutrition expert. For instance, anyone who has lost weight using a “Keto” or “Paleo” diet, are now weight loss experts (I use quotation marks because these really aren’t real diets. The Ketogenic diet is a therapeutic diet to treat epileptic seizures. It works and is appropriate for some people with seizure disorders. Paleolithic diet is just made up. No clinical trial proved it’s healthy or realistic for the greater population).
- Sadly, food manufacturers have followed the crazy in labeling their products and also in product development. Today’s shopper seems to value a food product labeled “Gluten Free, GMO Free, No artificial flavors or colors” over what nutrition value the overall food actually provides.
- Moo-ve Over. Many consumers any are abandoning cow’s milk and replacing it with non dairy alternatives, or nothing at all. Moms are raising children who have high calcium, Vitamin D, and protein needs to build bones and teeth, on low protein alternative or no milk at all. It’s interesting to me that some will choose a product like Almond Milk, with some brands adding calcium to it (and some not), but will shun other foods because they have “additives” or shout that “cow’s milk has Vitamin D added!” My advice: Drink cow’s milk (but not raw milk, and not if you are truly lactose intolerant).
- Detox. Please make this word go away. There are so many products that falsely advertise this notion we need to detoxify on a regular basis. (Did your grandmother detox? Mine lived to 83, and no she did not. Neither did my parents who each lived to 90). Many of these false claims are marketed using superficial results, with key words such as “younger looking” or “flat belly in 3 days”. Some may claim to “increase your energy level” and, hey, what over 35 year old doesn’t want more energy? But I wish it would stop. Because it’s bullshit.
- GMO safety and “where your food really comes from”. The answers to these questions can be answered by farmers and scientists. It’s not a secret, what you think of as a “factory farm” is really just a farm with acreage. It’s about real people who own land, work hard every day, and provide us with the food and resources to make food. And as noted here, “GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply”.
- The Beauty Business should not sell nutrition. I have seen more and more anti-aging cream companies also sell a little “detox lemonade” on the side. This won’t work for the long term. Sure if you drink a 100 calorie beverage for lunch, you’ll lose weight. If you lose weight, your belly will flatten. But – call me in 2-5 years and let me know if you’ve maintained that weight loss, and what you are going to eat for the rest of your life. Please, just stick to moisturizer and skin firming creams, and skip the side nutrition hustle.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s really getting discouraging to see so many consumers so fixated on the quick fix over choosing changing some negative eating behaviors and adopting healthier lifestyle for life. It’s also discouraging that the public chooses to accept all of this misinformation and believe everybody but me and my registered dietitian colleagues (or other health care providers, including physicians).
The panel that reviews these best diets every year are health professionals who are qualified to evaluate both the data and the overall compositions of the diets, as well as whether they are realistic to adhere to. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow (who while she makes an occasional delicious and healthy recipe, she also peddles a bunch of quacky crap!) or the ladies on the View, are not qualified to provide nutrition advice.
The best diets? DASH, Mediterranean, Flexitarian/Vegetarian. That’s about it (and the other top 20 diets rated by US News and World Report are all sound, just not ‘best’).
Same As It Ever Was
I will continue to stand by balance, moderation and variety when it comes to eating. I’ll continue to encourage you to eat cake (but only a 2 inch square) as a treat. I won’t tell you that sugar is toxic, nor that you have to avoid gluten in order to lose weight. But I will tell you that you need to incorporate more vegetables and grains into your diet (for fiber, vitamins, and for both gut and heart health). I won’t tell you not to eat meat if you want to, and I also won’t tell you to eat more meat if you want to be a vegetarian. I will always tell you that regular exercise is very important to your health and quality of life. I won’t misguide you with information that either simply isn’t true, or has no evidence behind it.