|The "DIET" epidemic has hit our society big time and this is happening with
good reason. A whopping 61% of the population in the United States today is
overweight or obese. In 2001 it was estimated that $33 billion was spent on
diet books, pills and weight loss programs.
When you hear the word �DIET� a red flag should wave before your eyes
immediately. People do not stop to consider the consequences of eliminating
certain foods from their diet all together. The low carbohydrate diets prevent
the intake of many foods packed with vitamins, minerals and the associated
antioxidants and phytonutrients. This leads to higher intake of protein and fat
that brings with it the risk of many cancers and heart disease. It takes
several years for cancers to grow enough to become visible and diagnosed. When
a diagnosis of cancer is received the long forgotten diet detrimental to ones
health years ago is no longer associated with any potential risk at that time.
It is for this precise reason alone we need some clinical and longevity studies
to prove potential benefits/risks of risky fad diets like the low carbohydrate
diets. The nutrients in many of the eliminated carbohydrate foods like starchy
vegetables, fruit and whole grains are protective against many cancers. The
best way to limit intake of carbohydrate foods today is to stay away from
regular s0das , sweetened tea, Kool-Aid, desserts, high carbohydrate snack
foods, white pasta, white bread, white rice and white potatoes as much as
Super sizing is another weight issue problem in today�s society. So many
restaurants and fast food chains are appealing to the pocket book with very
unhealthy "super sizing� of food and beverages with inexpensive special deals.
This does not help us to set reasonable limits on total calories consumed. Did
you know that there are on the average 10 packets of sugar in a 12 ounce soft
drink? Giving up just one such drink daily for one year, 365 days; will result
in a 15 pound weight loss for making that one change. The rewards of avoiding
the �super size" food items are even greater.
The best way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories and increase physical
activity. Experts suggest aiming for a weight loss goal of about a pound a
Think about making a few other minor changes that will result in developing
some new habits you can live with for the rest of your life.
Sweet tea drinkers consider adjusting to the taste of half sweet - half
un-sweet tea in restaurants
Selecting low fat sour cream, cream cheese, milk, ice cream and cheeses
Keeping dried fruit around to eat to satisfy the desire for something sweet
Consider eating only broth based soups in restaurants and at home
Share an entree� and/or a dessert to save cents and for good calorie sense
Add vegetables to every casserole and homemade or from a can soups
Try adding frozen spinach to spaghetti sauce or peas and carrots to chicken
noodle soup, dried cranberries to oatmeal, or making brownies with applesauce
Add blueberries, mashed banana or applesauce to homemade pancakes, top with
fresh fruit when serving
Claims or implies a large or quick weight loss of more than 1 to 2 pounds per
week. Slow gradual weight loss increases the chance of weight loss success and
of keeping weight off long term.
Some suggestions of credible diets/meal plan ideas acceptable for their
balanced intake are the American Heart Association�s Diet plan, Weight
Watcher�s and following the Food Guide Pyramid. Here are some tips for spotting
Fad Diets and avoiding the health risks associated with them:
Promotes magical or miracle foods. No foods can undo the long-term effects of
overeating and not exercising or melting away fat.
Restricts or eliminates certain foods, recommends certain foods in large
quantities, insists on eating specific food combinations or offers rigid
Implies that weight can be lost and maintained without exercise and other
Relies heavily on undocumented case histories, testimonials and anecdotes but
has no scientific research to back claims.
Contradicts what most trusted health professional groups say or makes promises
that sound too good to be true.
Eating an abundance of vegetables is an excellent way to decrease total caloric
intake and give the body a good health boost. According to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, only about 26 percent of Americans eat five or
more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. That means more than 135 million
Americans, or 74 percent, are not getting the minimum daily amount of fruits
and vegetables recommended. The Oprah Magazine pointed to several factors in
Americans'' failure to eat more fruits and vegetables. Give some thought to
these very real concerns and look to finding ways to get around these barriers.
MOST PEOPLE DON''T understand the importance of plant-based foods.
SOME FRUITS AND VEGETABLES can be expensive, especially when out of season.
FRESH PRODUCE has a relatively short shelf life.
VENDING MACHINES in schools and offices make processed food much more readily
THE TASTE OF a store-bought peach isn''t as predictable as that of a Doritos
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES can taste bland or worse if poorly prepared.
These insights were reviewed in an article by Gary White who writes for The
Ledger in Lakeland, Fla. The issues are very real considering the fact that 74
percent of the population who are not currently eating the minimum recommended
amount of fruit and vegetables will be faced with many serious chronic health
problems in the future. There is no dispute in the fact that there are a wealth
of clinical studies proving the health benefits of eating at least 5 fruits and
To find recipe ideas for preparing fruit and vegetables in interesting ways the
following website may be helpful.
The following link gives a great summary of Fad Diets and the traps people can
fall into when choosing plans that limit intake of certain foods.
The following is a link to Registered Dietitians who offer online credible meal
planning services for reasonable fees.
A clinically proven sound meal plan is available on line. The DASH eating plan
has gained credibility as a way to lower blood pressure. The plan is available
at the following web site and is appropriate for anyone.
Diets have been proven over and over again not to work. They are restrictive,
demeaning and looked upon as a temporary solution to a long term problem. Try
to adopt healthy eating behaviors that eliminate most of the time foods that
have little or no nutritional value. Assess regularly the adequacy of intake
according to the Food Guide Pyramid to be sure you are eating the minimum
amounts of all food groups. Following both of these steps will contribute
mightily toward maintaining a healthy body.
Ms. Ratcliffe is a Nutritionist in Health Promotion for the Mecklenburg County
Health Department, 249 Billingsley Road, Charlotte, NC, 28211. (704)336-6029