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March: National Nutrition Month

By Nell Stephenson, B.S.
March 10, 2018
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Where are we getting our information?

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, focused on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits (1).

Their website states that Go Further with Food is the theme for 2018, and it includes key points such as starting the day off right with a healthy breakfast, fueling before an athletic event and preparing your foods to go further. There’s even a touchpoint on reducing food waste!

Sounds great and makes total sense.

After all, we certainly need all the guidance we can get, given the state of health of our country. As of late last fall, 40% of Americans were obese and the trend is not heading in the right direction (2).

Clearly, we’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere and if we don’t redirect soon, we’re facing a fatter and consequently sicker country in the very near future.

But the big question is whether or not we can trust our source: the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (“AND”), formerly known as the American Dietetic Association.

While recommendations such as “Eat your fruits and veggies!” or “Get out an exercise regularly” are all well and good, other not so sage pieces of advice raise a red flag, to say the least. If AND, a governmental organization, is approving such foods with their stamp of approval as Kraft Cheese Singles (3) and health professionals, trained using a curriculum developed by AND, accept paid advertising on their sites to suggest that Coca Cola can have a healthy role in our diets (4), how can we rely on their advice about what we should be eating and how much?

Marion Nestle, retired Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Emerita, at New York University, and visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell (5) points out on her site (6) that 7 of 12 of the major corporate affiliations of the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), the organization that publishes the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) and the Journal of Nutrition have affiliations with food companies which includes Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, The Sugar Association, The National Restaurant Association, ConAgra, McDonald’s, Kellogg, Mars, and many others.

How accurate, then, can the recommendations we’re receiving in terms of what to eat be? Is it at all surprising that we’re told not to eat too much fat, in favor of refined grain-based foodstuff, that low fat / low calorie items in packages are great options for snacks and my all time favorite, that everything in moderation is the way to go, including products created with sugar and corn syrup?

Imagine a “MyPlate” schematic look if it were focused on a truly healthy approach to eating. Let’s pause on calling it Paleo for a moment; if we position it as a seasonal, local, sustainable way to eat, it would include abundant, in season veggies with some fruit in moderation, wild, mindfully sourced proteins and a variety of natural fats.

As in very little, if any at all, refined and processed foods with little to no nutrient density. As in very little of the very products the main sponsors of the AND have in their best interest to Endorse. Let’s face it: much of what we consider food in our country is no longer even food; rather, it’s part of a highly lucrative industry. So what’s the recourse? Who can we rely on to provide viable suggestions about what we really should eat?

Go back a couple of generations and consider what your great grandparents ate. Ask yourself how many steps it took for a food to get from growing or running or swimming to get on your plate. See how many ingredients are in a label if you’re using something in a package. Investigate how far a food has traveled before it landed in your home. Reach out to functional medicine doctors in your area. Go to your farmer’s markets and shop fresh right in your Community.

All common sense tactics; none of which require a degree in nutritional science. Start with the basics and begin to self educate. You may be surprised that with just a little bit of time spent on learning, you’ll discover a world of honest information provided without ulterior motives, which you can trust implicitly.

As I always say, just eat food (and move!).

References

  1. https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition- month
  2. http://time.com/4980225/obesity-rates- adults-children/
  3. https://www.foodpolitics.com/2015/03/dietitians-put- seal-on- kraft-singles- you-cant- make-this-stuff-up/
  4. http://www.startribune.com/coke-a- good-snack- health-experts- working-with- coke-say-so/296404461/?c=y&page=all&prepage=1#continue
  5. https://www.foodpolitics.com/tag/adaamerican-dietetic- association/
  6. https://www.foodpolitics.com/2013/11/conflicts-of- interest-in- nutrition-societies- american-society-of-nutrition/

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