National Nutrition Month® - 2015
“National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The theme for 2015 is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,” which encourages everyone to adopt eating and physical activity plans that are focused on consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices and getting daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote overall health.
My job as a dietitian is to educate people about how to eat healthy, balanced diets. Just this week again I had a few patients come in to see me that astounded me as to how unhealthy they are eating. I’m not saying this to judge people, I’m saying it because I think sometimes I must live in a nutrition LaLa land hoping people aren’t really eating this unhealthy!! I ask people for a 24-hour recall as part of my initial assessment. I simply use it to see if people have a schedule to their eating. I don’t use it typically to look at what people are eating, because let’s be honest people almost always lie when they’re telling me what they’ve eaten the day before (kind of like, let me eat better because I know I’m going to see the dietitian effect). I ask other questions to get a little further in to the frequency of their eating out and how many times a day they’re eating fruits and vegetables, etc. But here’s the thing, my patients are just like most Americans, they’re following the S.A.D. diet, the Standard American Diet: high fat, high refined carbohydrates, low in fiber, and low in plant-based foods, sad literally. We eat too much, plus we eat too much of the wrong stuff. We often tell ourselves that we don’t have time to prepare and eat decent meals. And when we do cook, it’s all too tempting to just open a box and nuke something in the microwave. And especially after a long hard day at work, we deserve a break, don’t we? Our bodies need a break from what we’re putting into them: high-carb foods, especially those low in nutrients; manufactured Trans fats in the form of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils; sugar in all its forms; refined flour. This S.A.D. diet is contributing to epidemic levels of obesity, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. This S.A.D. diet is filled with unhealthy fats, hormones, and chemicals created in a lab. Our bodies need a break from trying to break all of this stuff down.
Here are 6 ways to begin to upgrade your Standard American Diet. It goes along perfectly with this year’s theme for National Nutrition Month®: “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle”:
Eliminate Processed Food – I tell my patients to start looking at their pantries/cupboards/freezers. Truly take a long hard look at how many foods that they have and be honest with themselves at how often they’re eating these foods. One patient this week was literally eating a sandwich for both breakfast and lunch 5 days a week all with processed meat from the deli. (His other 2 days were the weekends and of course, those meals he was eating out). I asked him if he’d ever roasted a chicken. Could he maybe use that for his sandwich instead? I understand the cooking part takes time, but seriously has anyone ever stood in the deli line at Publix before? That takes time!! All joking aside, the goal is to begin to limit the amount of processed foods we’re consuming. Reflect and be honest with the frequency of how often you’re really consuming these foods. Start cutting back. It’s not natural to eat things from a box/can. And don’t get me started on all the names of the ingredients you can’t pronounce or understand. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has a chemical cuisine chart that is helpful to begin to know which additives/preservatives to avoid, but better yet, start eliminating them all together.
In case you weren't aware, Splenda® is now listed on the watch list!
Buy Organic – To help reduce the amount of toxins, pesticides, and chemicals that we ingest. They have adverse effects on our health. This one is tough even for me. It’s expensive and let’s face it, we can’t buy all things organic. Check out the yearly Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen Report to find out which foods are recommended to buy organic.
If You Eat Meat – be sure it’s grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free. Again, more expensive, but the quality can’t be beat. ~4-6 ounces in a day is a rough estimation of what is recommended for people to eat. Yes the new dietary guidelines will be updating their restrictions on cholesterol; however, there still is caution in regards to saturated fat. Saturated fat comes from animal products, is solid and is the kind of fat that leads to clogged arteries. So it’s not an unlimited amount of meat that you get to eat. The committee recommends that a plant-focused diet not only promotes health, but is also more environmentally sustainable.
Eat Your Greens – Half of your plate should be veggies, no two ifs ands or buts about it. No debating this. Vegetables, especially the leafy greens are rich in phytochemicals (the good kind of chemicals), vitamins, minerals that prevent heart disease and cancer, increase your energy and provide fiber for healthy digestion.
Stop Eating So Much Sugar – Hands down the easiest recommendation for me to make to my patients but also hands down the hardest place for patients to begin to cut back (it’s addictive!) You should be eating no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar) for women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar) for most men. There’s no nutritional need or benefit that comes from eating added sugar. The key is to cut back. Check out the list of hidden sugar names:
Until the new nutrition labels distinguish between natural sugar and added sugar we’re on our own to begin to decipher the labels. Or better yet, avoid those packaged products that have added sugar to begin with.
Break From Your Status Quo – and educate yourself. Get in the kitchen and start experimenting with new recipes. We’re not all going to be famous and featured on the Food Network, but maybe part of the reasons we eat out or go the easy route and used packaged products is because we don’t know how to cook. Kids love to get in the kitchen and help too – it’s a great opportunity to allow kids to learn how to cook starting at a young age. Make sure to put some thought into what you’re going to eat for the week. The minute there isn’t a plan is when we start to go for the short-cut and that doesn’t always mean the healthiest option. Planning is key.
I always tell my clients that I’m going to give them many ideas in their nutrition session; however, the key is to pick just one of the ideas that I give to them and really truly commit to making that change. From there they can progress and continue working on all the other ideas that I’ve given to them. One step at a time, one bite towards a healthier lifestyle, the goal is to create healthy habits that last a lifetime.