Dietary pattersn determine ehalth more than single foods and beverages

Soda Taxes vs Dietary Guidelines: Which Can Best Improve Our Diets?

This post was written as a guest blog for Americans for Food & Beverage Choice. You can read the original post here.

Are you one of the millions of people who eagerly awaited the release of each new Harry Potter book over the past 20 years and snatched up a copy to read as soon as it came out? That sort of describes how registered dietitian nutritionists, like me, feel about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). A new edition is published every five years to provide health professionals and policy makers with the latest nutrition science to guide our eating advice for the nation.

I know that probably doesn’t sound as exciting as a day at Hogwarts Academy, but it supplies me with many of the tricks of the trade I need to do my job!

The most recent edition of the DGA was published this year, so it’s still fresh on my mind. A key message throughout the 200+ page document is the importance of dietary patterns over single foods or nutrients in determining diet quality.  The DGA define dietary patterns as:

“…the quantities, proportions, variety or combinations of different foods and beverages in diets, and the frequency with which they are habitually consumed.”

It goes on to say that a healthy eating pattern should include everything from vegetables and fruits to grains, dairy, protein and even oils. It also says our eating patterns should limit excess saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium.

“As you can see, there’s much more we need to include in our diets than exclude to be healthy.”


This all came to mind as I followed the news of soda taxes being proposed in several cities across the country this year. It made me wonder how taxing sugar-sweetened beverages was going to help Americans achieve the goals outlined in the DGA? Reducing added sugars is important, but it shouldn’t overshadow all of the other ways Americans can improve their diets – or worse yet – lead them to think reducing added sugars is the only thing that matters.  And sadly, there may be some evidence of just that.

Soda consumption in the U.S. has been declining for the past 30 years while obesity and unhealthy diets persist. Maybe it’s time for legislators to propose bills that will help Americans achieve better dietary patterns instead of focusing so much on sugars since the DGA also clearly state, “…the eating pattern may be more predictive of overall health status and disease risk than individual foods or nutrients.”

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Seek expert advice about food and nutrition

Why We Still Need Experts in the Information Age

This post was written as a guest blog for Americans for Food and Beverage Choice. You can read the original post here.

I was at a meeting with my tax accountant last April and she had a can of diet soda on her desk when I arrived. “You must think I’m terrible for drinking this stuff” she said, but added, “the caffeine gives me the boost I need when putting in late hours during tax season and the sugar-free option helps me avoid unwanted calories.”

While I’m usually the one asking her for professional advice when we’re together, this was clearly a situation where she needed my expertise, so I asked her why she thought I would disapprove of her beverage choice. Her answer surprised us both.

She said she had seen so many alarming reports about sugar and artificial sweeteners that she simply believed all sweet tasting drinks must be bad for her. Then when I asked her where she had read these reports, she admitted she didn’t have a clue. “They’re all over the Internet” she sheepishly said.  She went on to say that must sound pretty foolish coming from a person who deals in the cold hard facts of accounting, but when it came to nutrition facts, it was all a blur to her.

I told her I could relate to her feelings since I am equally baffled by financial matters, but fortunately, I could rely on her expertise to set me straight. Now I was going to return the favor.

I explained that sweet drinks – whether made with sugar, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners –could be a regular part of her diet as long as all of her nutritional needs were being met and she did not exceed her energy requirements. The problem isn’t the sweet drinks, I told her; it’s not getting the second half of that equation right.

To make the point hit home I explained diet and exercise were like an accounting ledger. The nutrients column needs daily deposits and the activity column needs regular expenditures. “Good nutrition is all about checks and balances,” I said, not any single food or ingredient. If you budget properly you can “afford” to eat anything, just like a good financial budget allows you to buy what you want. She nodded in agreement.

When our visit was over she thanked me for the gentle nudge to be more critical of where she gets her food and nutrition information, and said if she has a question, she’ll consult an expert. “You have my number” I told her, “and don’t be afraid to use it for expert advice.”

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Taxing soda can't fix a poor diet

Can We Tax Our Way to Better Diets?

If your kids aren’t doing well in school, do you tell them they just have to give up video games and they’ll do better? Of course not! Even if they never played another video game for the rest of their lives, they’d still have to read books, complete assignments, and pass tests to attain those better grades.

The same is true for improving the quality of our diets or losing weight. It can’t be done by asking people to give up foods and beverages they enjoy, like soda. That’s simply not sustainable. A healthy and balanced diet requires eating the right foods in the right amounts and in the right frequency to get the desired results, with or without soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks.

The amazing thing about a well-planned diet, matched by regular exercise, is that you can actually have the occasional soft drink without “ruining” your health or gaining weight! It’s all about eating the foods that supply the nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy since nothing we remove from the diet can replace them.

While no food or beverage can cancel out the nutritional benefits of the other foods we eat, we can gain weight if we eat too many calories, including those found in the most nutritious foods. That means eating a strawberry-banana smoothie every day that is full of vitamin C, potassium, protein, and calcium can supply more calories than we need and result in weight gain over time. Those excess pounds can lead to obesity, and obesity can increase the risk for hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer no matter how many nutrients came with the calories.

So when you hear people blaming sugar-sweetened drinks for obesity or other health problems and propose to tax them or implement warning labels to improve our diets, remind them that’s not how good nutrition works – just like banning video games at home won’t make kids get better grades in school.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Nutrition education is taught at home, not through soda taxes

Sweet Childhood Memories

This post was written as a guest blog for Americans for Food & Beverage Choice. You can read the original post here.

While refilling the sugar bowl after a weekend visit from a friend, who likes her coffee sweet, I found myself wondering how this ingredient found in nearly every pantry in the world has become so vilified. That wasn’t always the case.

Sugar was a big part of my diet when I was growing up. My mother took pride in her homemade pies, beautifully decorated birthday cakes, and the 30 different varieties of Christmas cookies she baked every year for family and friends. In the summer she made delicious jars of jams and preserves that my sisters and I spread on her freshly baked bread as an after school snack. And every night after dinner we had dessert, even if it was just a dish of pudding. All that cooking and baking used a lot of sugar!

If I tell someone these memories of my childhood diet they often remark how lucky I was. Looking back I have to agree— there was no guilt or shame in enjoying all the sweet treats my mother prepared. But that’s not the only thing that was different.

My friends and I were much more active than children are today. We walked or rode our bikes to school every day and any place we wanted to go when not in school. We also had far less screen time with just one TV in the house and only 5 channels to watch. And our nutrition education started early, at home, by eating our meals together and learning to how to cook.  .

Heaping all of the blame for our rising rates of obesity on added sugar consumption just doesn’t make sense. Many other changes in our way of life over the past 50 years have also contributed to the problem, so taxing and restricting access to sweetened drinks is not a solution. I can’t even imagine how my mother would have reacted if a law was passed limiting the amount of sugar she could buy!  It’s time to start taking personal responsibility for our health, starting with making better food choices and being more active. Thankfully, we don’t need any new laws to do that.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Moderation and good genes provide clues to longevity

Bacon, Soda, and Longevity – What’s the Connection?

This post was written as a guest blog for Americans for Food and Beverage Choice. You can read the original post here.

Did you see the headlines earlier this summer proclaiming the world’s oldest person eats bacon every day? The story caught my attention since bacon is one of those “guilty pleasure” foods we all enjoy, and we now have evidence that a 116 year old woman has been eating it every day!

There are many other things that may have contributed to this woman’s long life, such as her genetic heritage (her grandmother lived to be 117!). She also naps regularly, eats three meals a day and has a loving family.

As with most things in a long life, it’s never that simple – Spoiler alert: bacon is not the key to longevity!

The same holds true for headlines that say drinking soda can cause obesity, type 2 diabetes, or heart disease. What’s missing from those unfounded statements is any evidence from randomized clinical trials to demonstrate cause and effect.

Like longevity, the research on what does cause these illnesses reveals a strong genetic component. They are also influenced by numerous environmental factors and lifestyle behaviors. It’s just not a simple matter of sipping a sugar-sweetened beverage or not. In fact, our overall dietary patterns   matter much more than any single food we may eat.

I’m sure it will make many people happy to know they can still enjoy bacon and their favorite soft drink and live a long life. The lesson here is that it’s not the bacon that will guarantee you’ll reach your 100th birthday or the sweet drink that will keep you from getting there. Eating balanced meals and getting plenty of physical activity are habits that can add years to your life.

Keep that in mind the next time you see an inflammatory headline providing a quick fix for all of your dietary woes.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Avoiding sugar is not the key to weight control

Avoiding Excess Calories

This post was written as a guest blog for Americans for Food and Beverage Choice. You can read the original post here.

I heard a funny joke the other day about a woman who couldn’t double the recipe for her favorite chocolate chip cookies because her oven didn’t go up to 700 degrees. Anyone who likes to cook knows you don’t have to double the oven temperature to make more cookies, just the ingredients, but it got me thinking about some of the other “kitchen math” that keeps people from eating well.

Counting calories is by far the toughest nutrition problem most people have to solve each day. Knowing how many calories we consume is one half of the energy balance equation (more math!) Knowing how much energy we expend in physical activity is the other half. The calories from all foods and beverages contribute equally to the intake side of the equation. When we consume more calories than we expend we can gain weight. Increasing our level of activity is one way to off-set those extra calories. Consuming fewer calories is another. Keeping both sides in balance is the goal for weight maintenance. If you’re tuned in to popular media you might think sugar-sweetened drinks are responsible for obesity, but that simply isn’t true.

All calories count – which is why I shake my head in disbelief at those who single out just one caloric source as the cause for obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Proponents of taxes on soda, warnings on sugar-sweetened beverages, and more red tape for grocery stores have got it wrong. As a registered dietitian, I’m convinced that consuming excess calories is the problem and unfortunately, there is no tax that will fix that.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

Knowing "how much" and "how often" are key yo making the best food chocies

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

This post was written as a guest blog for Americans for Food and Beverage Choice. You can read the original post here.

One of the liabilities of being a registered dietitian is that we are asked a lot of questions about food and nutrition, even when we’re not on duty. That happened to me recently while looking over menu choices at an international buffet. The woman in line next to me saw “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist” on my name badge so sought my opinion without any introduction.

Her question reminded me of how eager people are to have “yes” or “no” answers about eating certain foods when what they really need to know is “how much” and “how often.”

Let me explain.

Herbs and spices have long been used for medicinal purposes in addition to flavoring our food. Over time scientific studies have been able to demonstrate the health benefits of some of these ‘”traditional” therapies, like mint for an upset stomach and cinnamon for blood sugar control. But just like taking a drug, there is a right dose and right frequency that provide those benefits.

Now back to the woman on the buffet line. She wanted to know if she should take the Chicken Tikka Masala for her lunch since it had turmeric in it, and she heard turmeric can prevent tumor growth. She went on to say she had a strong family history of *** cancer and was concerned about finding a lump. While that is a lot of information to get from a complete stranger, I couldn’t help but wonder if she really believed a single meal from this buffet would lower her risk of cancer? I also hoped she was taking other steps to protect her health. Then I told her if she liked tikka masala this version looked very good.

This encounter reminded of how easy it is for people to think they shouldn’t consume any foods or drinks sweetened with sugar because they see headlines that proclaim “sugar is toxic” or “soda causes obesity.” While neither claim is true, what gets lost in the headlines is the “how much” and “how often” part of the discussion and the other factors that contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Eating a wide variety of foods and balancing your energy intake with adequate physical activity are part of a healthy lifestyle. So are getting enough rest, managing stress and not using tobacco products. And if you enjoy sugar-sweetened beverages or those made with low-calorie sweeteners, they can be part of a healthy lifestyle, too.

It all comes down to how much and how often and what else you’re doing to make all of the pieces of a healthy lifestyle add up right. When you do you’ll find life really can be sweet with sugar and spice!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.