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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Nutrition is News!

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Wow. There was a myriad of Diet Dish fodder in the news yesterday:
-Prince Charles called for a McDonalds ban
-Krispy Kreme introduced a new whole wheat doughnut
-Anheuser-Busch released an energy drink made with goji berries (one of the “it” exotic fruits of the moment)
-The French Ministry of Health now requires food and beverage companies to include health warnings in every advertisement (designed to combat obesity)

And these were just 4 of many food/nutrition headlines. Yesterday, nutrition wasn’t just in the news, it was the news! I was going to pick one of these things to blog about, but the more I looked at the list, the more I thought, “hmmm, what’s going on here?” It’s like a nutrition malfunction junction! Here’s what I mean:

Some of these messages tell you what not to do (i.e. don’t eat McDonalds), some try to convince you what to do (drink goji berry juice), some attempt to make traditionally “splurge” foods good for you (a whole wheat donut? really?), and some tack on scary warnings about obesity to any food or beverage ad (yikes!). Where’s the message of balance? Where’s the big picture? Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees! No wonder consumers are confused and fed up.

If you read the Diet Dish, I hope you agree that balance is my mantra. And on that note, here are my thoughts:

-I don’t think banning foods is a solution. Most bans result in rebellion, rebound overconsumption, and elevating the status of a food (it becomes more special). I’m for eating unhealthy foods less often and/or in smaller quantities. I think a food/money analogy really fits here. Every once in a while, I splurge on a high ticket item (vacations are my vice), but I know that if I splurge too often, I’ll get into debt. So, I choose carefully, budget, and make peace with the fact that I just can’t go half way across the globe more than once or twice a year. Food – same idea. I love French fries, but I don’t eat them often, and when I do, I take away other high carb/fat foods to “budget” for them. That’s balance.

-Is a whole wheat donut healthier than a regular donut? Maybe a tiny bit. But do we really want people to get their whole grains from donuts? How about oatmeal or whole grain toast most days of the week, and a good old fashioned “original” donut every once in a while? After all, making donuts with whole wheat flour doesn’t make it ok to overeat them (and by the way, the whole wheat glazed provides 2 grams of fiber but it still provides 3.5 grams of trans fat and 3 grams of saturated fat, only .5 grams less than the original).

-Goji berry energy drinks….how about eating some goji berries and drinking a cup of coffee (I mean, how many goji berries are you really getting in that drink?). And instead of singling out a “hot” fruit and putting it in everything, how about striving for a wide variety of many types of fruit?

-Instead of tacking health warnings onto all food and beverage ads, how about promoting a message of balance?

Working in this field is exciting and rewarding, but it can also be frustrating. At the conference I attended in Greece, one of the speakers made a comment blaming dietitians for promoting fads (like the fat free craze years back and the low carb trend of late). His comment caused a small mutiny. WE were never the ones promoting those ideas. For the 12 years I’ve been in this field, my message has been steady – balance, moderation, variety, realism. It clears the clutter - and, it works!

Ok, time for today’s fun facts:
-March is National Nutrition Month (American Dietetic Association)
-This year’s theme is 100% Fad Free! (how appropriate!)
-Past themes include All Foods Can Fit (1997), Take a Fresh Look at Nutrition (1999), Juggle the Foods You eat (1983), and Food Fads Fool (1975) – do you see a common thread here or what?
-The American Dietetic Association is the nation's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals in the world. It was founded in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1917
-Currently, the ADA’s 5 key areas of interest include: 1) obesity and overweight, with a focus on children, 2) healthy aging, 3) a safe, sustainable and nutritious food supply, 4) nutrigenomics, and 5) integrative medicine, including supplements and alternative medicine

photo courtesy of National Cancer Institute
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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