Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gobble Up Some Nutrition Information

Nutrition is one of those things that is just common sense, right? We all feed ourselves and our families and do just fine. Maybe we eat fast food now and again, or enjoy some chips with our lunch. You add a vegetable side dish to your dinner. You have a bowl of one of those General Mills big check whole grain cereals. You pick the light dressing, or you took the major step to have the dressing on the side. See? You know exactly what you're doing, and why fix something that isn't broken?

Then why is the United States as a whole at its heaviest? Why are we arguably the least healthy country in the world? We watch shows like Biggest Loser and think, "They just need to use common sense and eat less." The truth is that people who aren't weighing in at Biggest Loser levels still don't really know that much about nutrition. I have been trying to learn more about nutrition lately. I can't say that my diet is amazing. In fact, it is pretty awful. But as my Anything for 10 Sister points out in relation to all situations, once your eyes have been opened to the truth, it is so much harder to continue on as you did in ignorance. So why do we know so little about diet and nutrition?

Think back to elementary school or high school health class. Do you remember that Food Guide Pyramid that they had you look at to teach you about nutrition? I love that old thing. Yes, those of you who think you are particularly up on your nutrition information are scoffing in your head because you already know that it has been replaced by the My Pyramid. You may remember the old one with the giant base section for breads, grains, and cereals. That is what I love about the old one. I absolutely love carbs. I even used to joke with my friends in college that I was on the all carb diet. I used the old pyramid to justify my carb addiction. Carbs aren't bad overall, but I wasn't eating the good crabs. The old pyramid did need revamping because it promotes the type of thinking I had. It is also that driving force that tricks people into buying the low-fat yogurt for example, instead of the light yogurt. You don't need to get rid of the fat, you need to get rid of the sugar, but the old pyramid made us think of fats as bad. Just like carbs, there are good fats and bad fats, and we all need healthy fats. The new pyramid is even less helpful than the original. It is often promoted just as the graphic without any nutritional information at all. Thanks, USDA!

But surely we can get the information we need if we just make sure we are well-rounded citizens who watch the news on a regular basis. They report all the newest medical findings that will guide us in the right direction. Wrong. Today on Good Morning America, they had two health and diet segments back to back. The first one I am calling the Goldilocks Coffee Report. It reported that a new study shows that 1-2 cups of coffee is juuuuuuust right for lowering your risk for heart disease by 11%! But more than two cups of coffee could be too much just like Papa Bear's bowl of porridge. Then they gave a report that I am going to call the Dunkin' Donuts Diet. This was where they reported that a new study shows that people who ate a sweet treat at breakfast lost more weight than people who stuck to a 300 or fewer calorie breakfast. Yes! Now, these both sound great in theory, but keep in mind that the two cups of coffee shouldn't be loaded with sugar, cream, or flavored syrups, which was not in the report they gave. And they were on the right track with the breakfast report because it is better to eat a large breakfast, than a large dinner, which is the norm in our culture. We need a paradigm shift on our eating habits in general.

How necessary is a paradigm shift in our culture? Take the word diet into consideration. Most people would tell you that it is some kind of reduction or limitation on what a person eats in order to lose weight, and while that is an accurate definition, we need to get back up to the top of the list in the dictionary. We need to think of diet in terms of food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health. We need to be proactive in learning about nutrition, fitness, and healthy living. I know that I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to things like this. We all just want someone else to do the digging for us. Someone else can spend the time learning it all and then just give us the highlights. We don't have the time to read a book or consult a doctor or nutritionist, right? Well, the truth is that we really can't afford not to spend the time because if you don't take care of your body, then you may have far less time than you want.

Currently Reading: Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy by Walter Willett, M.D.

Interested in  the revamped Healthy Eating Pyramid developed by Willett and Harvard's School of Public Health? Check it out here:

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