Nutrition: It's a Matter of Fact
Jill K. Fulk, R.D., L.D.
Registered and Licensed Dietitian
Every March, National Nutrition Month provides another opportunity to celebrate nutrition and activity and learn how to eat and live well. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) reminds consumers focus on the total balance of foods they consume, rather than on any one food or meal. The ADA also urges consumers to dispel the myths of nutrition and focus on the facts. It's important not to be misled by all the questionable sources out there. If a product or diet has been studied only once, it does not mean there is enough evidence to prove what those selling it claim. Registered dietitians are able to sift through all the research, come to conclusions and provide guidance to consumers.
There are some of the big myths out there. Here are just a few I've heard:
"I can't eat that because I have diabetes." The truth is all food can fit into a healthy diet, even for those with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association states that healthy lifestyle nutrition recommendations for the general public are also appropriate for people with diabetes. They recommend a variety of carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (dried beans and peas) and low-fat milk; lean protein selections; and low saturated and trans fat choices. Sugar, or sucrose-containing foods, can be substituted for other carbohydrates that are consumed, however these should be limited because of their calorie content and lack of vitamins and minerals.
"Eating healthy is just too difficult." It doesn't have to be! Changing too many habits at once can be challenging for everyone, so take it one step at a time. Focus on setting small goals, one or two at a time, and achieve them by making gradual changes. If eating at least three servings of vegetables a day seems overwhelming, focus on eating two servings a day to start. If walking 30 minutes a day is too much, begin walking 5-10 minutes a day in the beginning and increase as you are able. With any change, it takes time and planning. Set aside a few minutes each day to plan ahead. Keeping a food record can also be helpful. It shows how much food is consumed and where changes may be needed.
"Eating healthy is just too expensive." Examine what you're buying before you make that statement. Eating healthy requires us to focus on healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats and healthy fats, such as nuts, nut butters, olive and canola oils, to name a few. If your current diet includes many foods that are not in these groups, then you need to evaluate your grocery list. Look at it this way: If you eat lots of chips, cookies, and other processed foods, and continue to buy these items even though you have started to purchase healthier selections, then your food bill will go up. Balance is the key, and it's important to think of ways to make healthy substitutions. Eating is a great investment: By eating healthy foods most often, you're helping to build a better body, which results in lower health care costs and a better quality of life.
"Diet sodas cause cancer." The main reason people believe this one is because of the sweeteners diet sodas contain. The Food and Drug Association (FDA) has approved five sweeteners and regulates them as food additives. All have been rigorously studied and have been shown to be safe. Keep in mind, though, that there are limits to how much you should consume, so drink in moderation. The sweetener "Stevia" has not received sufficient scientific evidence to assure that it can be safely used as a food additive, so it is thus far not approved by the FDA.
"Food after 6 p.m. turns straight to fat." There is no evidence that food consumed after 6 p.m. turns to fat. Weight gain occurs when more calories are taken in then burned, regardless of the time they are eaten. "There are no bad foods, no good or bad times to eat and no magic bullet for maintaining a healthy weight," said registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesperson Ruth Frechman. "The fact is, it's the total diet approach that matters in living a healthful lifestyle." Frechman goes on to say, "What's more important is how many calories you ate the entire day, not when you ate them".
For more information on nutrition topics, visit the American Dietetic Association website at http://www.eatright.org/.