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.

 

Most of the factors that affect life expectancy are under our own control

Factors That Affect Life Expectancy

MOST OF THE FACTORS THAT AFFECT LIFE EXPECTANCY ARE UNDER OUR OWN CONTROL

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

The oldest person in New Jersey died this week. She was 111 years old and lived the final years of her life less than 5 miles from my home. Seeing that headline in the morning newspaper immediately made me think about longevity and the factors that affect life expectancy. It seems the more we learn from and about these hearty centenarians, the more we must all be prepared to answer the question:

If you knew you were going to live to be 100, what would you do differently today?

It is a question worth pondering since health officials using data from the most recent Census predict that by 2050 more than 800,000 Americans will live their lives across two centuries. Another is that research sponsored by the National Institute on Aging found when studying animals that only about 30% of aging is based on genetics. That means as many as 70% of the factors that influence how long we live might be under our own control.

Factors That Affect Life Expectancy

Personal behavior and one’s physical environment are two broad categories that influence our life span. Behaviors such as not smoking, not abusing alcohol, eating a plant-based diet, and being physically active every day are shared by those who live the longest. Research has also shown that keeping socially connected, mentally engaged, and easy going are equally important traits.

Some of the environmental risks we can try to control are our exposure to the sun and air pollution, getting immunized, wearing seat belts, and avoiding toxic chemicals in our homes and workplace. Of course it may not be possible to move to a place where the air and water quality are better, but you can use a water filter.

What Are You Waiting For?

The biggest gains in life expectancy made in the last 50 years can be attributed to our ability to treat lifestyle diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. But it has come at great cost and great suffering. We have also learned how to prevent those chronic diseases, but have not been successful motivating people to make the needed changes in their behavior and environments. Maybe the longevity question holds the key?

If you knew you were going to live to be 100, what would you start doing today?

For other posts on this topic:

  • How to Predict Longevity in Women
  • Feeding the Aging Mind
  • Longevity Secret Revealed
It is never too late to adopt a healthy diet in retirement

A Healthy Diet in Retirement, Does it Matter?

FOLLOW THESE GOALS FOR A HEALTHY DIET IN RETIREMENT

Hypertension, heart disease and diabetes – three preventable diseases that are the result of modern lifestyles. No matter which one you are diagnosed with, medications are immediately prescribed and dietary modifications are recommended. Unfortunately, few people make the needed changes in their diets while it might still do them some good. Instead, they take the pills and hope for the best.

Then by the time they’re ready to retire, there is little that a change in diet can do to reverse the damage from eating too much saturated fat, sodium and sugar. The most they can hope for is the ability to juggle all the overlapping conditions and restrictions.

So what are the dietary goals for those in retirement?

Aging results in changes in normal digestion and absorption, which impact your nutrient requirements, along with the effects of multiple medications and long-standing diseases. That is why most nutrition research does not typically include subjects older than 55 – there aren’t enough “healthy” people in that age group to study.

Consequently, there is no simple diet plan for the over 60 crowd. But there are three important areas to focus on until you can get a thorough nutritional assessment and individualized dietary plan from a registered dietitian.

Nutrient Density

While there is no one diet that fits all, we do know that a more nutrient dense one is important. That means your diet should be made up foods that provide more nutrients in fewer calories because calorie needs go down with age while nutrient requirements increase. Nutrient dense foods include:

  • Colorful fruits and vegetables, including fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juice
  • Lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry, fish, eggs, beans
  • Low fat and fat free milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Whole grains and cereals and the products made from them, like whole wheat bread and pasta

Expand Variety

Meals can easily become repetitious and monotonous, and that’s not a good. Variety is important both within each food group and throughout the year to be sure all of the nutrients you need are available from the foods in which they are naturally found.

It can be as simple as adding something new to your menu each week. Try a different type of apple or a frozen vegetable medley containing edamame (they’re soybeans!). Have cornmeal polenta as a side dish or black beans in your salad.

Ease Up on Extras

There are many things people enjoy eating and drinking that add little nutritional value to their diets, but do add calories. These extras include cake, cookies and candy and the butter, cream cheese and other spreads added to foods. While it is not necessary to give them up entirely, it is important to eat them less often and in smaller portions or to use lower calorie substitutes for them when available.

For example, a slice of peach pie can be replaced with a dish of sliced peaches (fresh, frozen or canned in unsweetened juice) topped with 2 crushed ginger snaps as a way how to have your pie and eat it, too!

Are you ready to change your eating habits for the better?

Lessons learned during weight loss hold key to success

Changing Lifestyle is Key to Successful Weight Control

Research shows losing weight and keeping it off requires changes in lifestyle

Losing weight is difficult, very difficult. No matter what diet program, product or procedure is used to shed excess pounds, people have tremendous resistance to changing their routines and doing something different. I could argue that no matter what the reasons are that people have gained weight, they all share the same reason for having trouble losing it. People hate change.

Eating is a habit, which is one reason it’s so hard to change, but another is that it’s part of a lifestyle. And your lifestyle is shaped by where you live and work, how much money you have, who you spend your time with, and what you know, like, believe. If you want to change what and how much you eat and how often you exercise, it is going to require major changes in your lifestyle.

Knowing what needs to be done to lose weight is rarely the problem. All of my clients are able to tell me what they need to do differently. They say they know they should eat breakfast, take smaller portions, limit their snacks, exercise more, double-up on vegetables and switch to low fat, but they have a hard time sticking to those suggestions. Even just one.

That is because, for example, to eat breakfast every day you have to shop regularly to be sure you have food in the house, get up a little earlier, be able to prepare something you like and is good for you, make your own coffee, and clean up after yourself. Getting up earlier is a big enough hurdle for most people; making sure you have cereal, milk and a banana can be insurmountable!

Why, then, is it possible for some people to change their lifestyle and lose weight? The answers can be found in the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR).

First a few words about the Registry, my favorite source of inspiration. It is a voluntary group made up of over 5000 people who have lost anywhere from 30 -300 pounds and kept it off for five years or more. That’s all it takes to be a member.

Several common traits have been identified among the NWCR participants to help us understand what has worked for them and might help others. They are listed below.

The one thing you won’t find on the list is what made them do it. Cultural anthropologist Inga Treitler, Ph.D. conducted extensive interviews with ten of the registrants to see if she could figure that out. What she found is they all experienced an inner transformation which resulted in their abandoning their former lifestyles and being “reborn” into a new one. In essence, they found a reason to change that made living in their new lifestyle easier than the old.

It all begins with the right reason.

TOP TEN TRAITS FROM WEIGHT CONTROL REGISTRY45% lost the weight on their own

10. 55% lost the weight with the help of a program

9. 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week

8. 74% weigh themselves at least once a week

7. 78% eat breakfast every day

6. 80% are women, 20% are men

5. 90% exercise an average of 1 hour a day

4. 94% increased their physical activity, walking was the most common activity

2. 98% modified their food intake in some way, most by controlling calories and fat

1. 100% found a reason to change their lifestyle

Here’s what has helped me keep my weight in control for the past 40 years.

Getting Motivated to Eat Right