The Standard American Diet: SAD Realities

The American Plate

When the truth is addressed, we really do not know much about nutrition science,  especially its physiological influences on our health. This dilemma results in the ongoing debates about just what is a healthy diet. In reality, nutrition is an infant science that has been ignored by some who feel  it is relatively an unimportant  factor on our health issues.

Doctors do not help the situation – most will admit that they never received much education about how the diet can affect heath parameters. My own doctor never mentioned the fact that even though I had lost 20 pounds intentionally since my last visit, he never asked me any particulars about the diet that got me there. One would think that he might have inquired if  the weight loss was not intentional, therefore indicating a health problem. He also never mentioned the resulting  lab value changes, primarily total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglyceride, blood glucose, blood pressure values that had improved with the dietary changes I had made on my own.

But most people are not aware of how diet can affect our heath (the emphasis has been only on weight loss).  When doctors don’t  mention it, patients do not receive the        proper information on diet interventions. For example, if their total cholesterol is too high, they are told to eat a low cholesterol, low fat diet (outdated advice) and/or placed on a statin drug.  Nutrition science has come a long way since those days from a couple of decades ago. The prudent way would be to give diet a chance. Diet advice is abundant on the internet. However, you should be careful about some of it – look for help from certified nutritionists (Registered dietitians or others with certification from a health coach program, for example.)

The following article written by Reinoud Schuijers explains quite well the problems with the Standard American Diet (SAD)  as the three “assassins” – refined vegetable oils, sugar and grains. He seems to follow a keto-type diet; however, research has not yet fully investigated the long-term effects of this highly restrictive plan.

Take charge of your own heath and encourage your doctor to help you take the path to healthy lifestyles. The internet is teeming with diet advice, but use it wisely. In my opinion (contrary to the following article) it may help to consult with a certified dietitian or certified health coach). But you don’t need to follow complicated meal plans – the best diet is one you form based on your lifestyle and food preferences. Say away from highly restrictive plans, fads and detoxification schemes as well as diet pills.

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Processed Food: How Much Do We Really Eat?

 

According to a study carried out by researchers at the University of Sao Paolo, almost 60% of the calories Americans consume each day comes from ultra-processed food.

All foods are processed to some extent. The main problem in the Standard American Diet (SAD), is the high percentage of ultra-processed foods.

What is an ultra-processed food?  It’s foods that contain additives like food coloring, synthetic coloring, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, chemicals that give food texture, as well as taboo additives like partially hydrogenated oils. Ultra-processed foods are also typically high in sodium, sugar, and calories. Just  read the ingredient list on the food labels (if you have time) and you will soon realize many of these additives are currently in our food supply.

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The Simple Way to Eat?

Was a new diet part of your 2020 resolutions?  Great, but forget the new fads, diet pills, and starvation deprivation. There are many of the old diets still around- keto, paleo, Whole 30, NutriSystem, Jenny Craig to mention a few.  Just look at the magazine covers at the supermarket checkout – keto seems to have taken over all the others. The keto diet is quite restrictive, difficult to maintain and the long-term effects are not known. There is little evidence that  this type of restriction, although shown to be effective for weight loss, may not be a lifestyle choice for most people. Is there a better way? In my opinion, yes. The best diet is one you can live with and with a few adjustments compatible with the foods you choose. The best diet is one that with a little guidance and knowledge, is decided by you.

The following article is worth looking at if you want a simple approach.  All you need is a plate, a bottle of water, real food and of course, your commitment. And even better, this plan lets you be in control in following a reasonable and evidence-based plan that can fit easily into your lifestyle.

The article speaks for itself and provides a few links to add to the basics, i.e. some things you need to know like a guide to non-starchy vegetables. Oh, you may have to give up fast food and processed foods for a while. But, you may be glad when you realize that you will feel a lot better (and healthier) and the effort will be well worth it.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to say that weight loss itself is easy – it ‘s hard work but worth it when your goals are either weight loss or just changing to a healthier lifestyle.    That is why this plan is appealing. it is straightforward and makes sense.

So join the new “non-diet” approach that will help you lose some pounds but even better, eating for health. That is what eating should be about, not body image, eating disorders and food restriction. Learning how to eat rather than  just what to eat  is the answer (my opinion). ENJOY!!

One more thing – Always consult a registered dietitian, certified nutritionist, and your primary physician to discuss any dietary change to make sure it is nutrient dense. Also make sure you have no underlying medical problems like high cholesterol, hypertension, pre-diabetes, diabetes or digestive issues, for example.

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Weight Loss: What are the Realities?

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

People have been dieting for centuries and the best advice from the so-called experts or fad diet enthusiasts still tell us to – “eat less and move more”.  This in itself is good advice but does not even begin to offer what is needed to keep that weight off and save you from the diet cycle of weight gain, loss, gain, loss cycles. There would not be billions of dollars spent trying to lose body weight over and over again for millions of people.  My own experience with weight loss has been limited fortunately most of my adult life due to not having to diet. But there was a price. More specifically, I was on a continuous reducing diet my whole life to prevent weight gain in the first place.  I remember weighing  94 pounds at a height of 5 ‘ 5 inches tall.  But as a nutrition student, I knew that was not a healthy weight by any account and being in a “starvation” mode for a lifetime is not the way to go.

Eventually as I got older and put on a few unwanted pounds, I finally did “go on my first formal diet” a few years ago. Specifically it was a low carbohydrate diet and it worked slowly but consistently. But it did take a lot of hard work. I have now kept that weight off for the past few years.

But every woman at any weight wants to lose those “last five pounds” and I am one of them. But did I ever learn a lot how our bodies fight against weight loss in order to prevent what it perceives as starvation. So now I know what hard work it is. So many diet programs try to make it seem easy and all it does for a lot of people is to make them feel guilty for not succeeding after each attempt. So here are some truths.

Some basics:

Only about 1/3 of dieters are successful at maintaining their loss. Chronic dieters know it takes vigilance and for some weight maintenance is harder to accomplish than the actual loss.

Weight maintenance requires continued modification of your lifestyle – you cannot let yourself go back into the old habits that caused the weight gain in  the first place.

Some people relax their vigilance too much after they lose the weight, then gain it right back. You can relax a little, but not too much.

You will be tempted by certain foods and certain situations – moderation is the best approach to keep in mind in those difficult situations. Diets are not just about the kinds of foods we eat, but how we eat.

Successful Losers/Maintainers (From The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) of people who have lost at least 60 pounds and kept it off for a minimum of five years). This is what they have found to be successful from their weight loss and weight loss maintenance.

  • Write your food intake down. Keep a journal or visit MyFitnessPal to help you track your typical food intake. This is a must – it is so easy to forget what you ate yesterday or how many snacks you mindlessly consumed.
  • Most losers follow low fat diets and more recently I would suspect low refined carbohydrates,  no gimmicks, special diet foods, or magic pills. Most simply do not work.
  • Exercise daily – walking is most popular and it should be scheduled into your day like brushing your teeth. About an hour a day is practiced by NWCR members.
  • Eat breakfast – all the research supports this, so intermittent fasting was not much of a factor.
  • Weigh in regularly. This advice goes against many experts who say “stay away from the scale”. However, in my opinion, this tool is necessary to see if you are gaining a few pounds, you can then make some adjustments to your diet to get back to your intended goal weight. You be the judge on scale use – if it helps you stay on track, use it.

The bottom line: The longer you keep the weight off, the easier it becomes to maintain the loss. It becomes more of a part of your lifestyle and not just considered a “diet”.  If you can make it for two years, you’re more than likely to become successful. The practice of intuitive eating (mindful) can help dieters keep their weight off – it  teaches you to think of food in an entirely different way. Why repeat the old habits that caused you to gain weight in the first place. Future posts will address intuitive eating more thoroughly. It’s worth it to know especially for maintaining your lost weight.

For now, the basic principles can be  thought of as:

MODIFICATION

 MODERATION

MINDFULNESS

MANAGEMENT

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How To Cook?

We are becoming a nation of microwave cooks. Just pop a fully cooked meal into the microwave and we can have  dinner in just 5 minutes. But wait – the finished product often does not resemble the picture on the box and/or the taste resembles the dinner you had last night – only the pasta shape has changed.  Sometimes I think they use the same sauce of some kind and just alter the name of the dish slightly.

Now days it is a well known fact that the family is busier with jobs and activities outside the house and the term “housewife” has actually disappeared into oblivion. Home economics is not taught in schools as it was a few decades ago, and convenience reigns as the most important marketing ploy when it comes to food preparation. Our kids have no idea where the food comes from unless it comes in a box or wrapped in plastic. We know the Nutrition Facts (calories, etc) but the list of ingredients takes up more room than it should and reads like a foreign language.

The following article presents some easy creative ideas that may help make a cooking experience easier and more appealing and even flavorful. Try them – you may become your own gourmet chef without much effort. Just in time for Christmas Dinner?

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Nutrition Myths

It is time to put to rest some nutrition misinformation that has dominated the media for a number of years now. Here is the nonsense and the sense of some of the most prevalent myths – it’s time to move away from them.

Gluten -Free Foods are Healthier. Unless you are truly sensitive to gluten or have been diagnosed with celiac disease,  you may miss out on some healthy whole grains if you choose gluten-free foods.

You only need to limit salt intake if you have high blood pressure. 90% of us will develop high blood pressure and some of us are sodium sensitive. We get plenty of sodium in processed foods and should try to limit our total intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams a day.

Sugar is toxic. There is no evidence that shows that sugar causes disease on its own. However, a high sugar intake can replace the healthier habits of  learning that carbohydrate intake can be healthier if we consume more complex carbs (fruits, whole grains, vegetables) and less highly refined  carbs (sugary drinks and foods with added sugars).

Fresh Produce is healthier than canned or frozen.  Foods which are picked fresh and immediately canned or  frozen may even have more nutrients than fresh produce. In fact, your body more easily absorbs nutrients like lycopene when they’ve gone through the canning process.

The term “natural” means healthier. The term natural on a food label has no FDA defintion, so it has no meaning in terms of health or that it is “organic.”

Farm-raised fish isn’t healthy. Today’s farm-raised fish has just as much and maybe more healthier omega-3 fats than wild-caught. Also farm-raised fish may have less mercury. They are now more sustainable and when from reputable farms can be raised with fewer antibiotics and no added coloration.

Margarine is loaded with unhealthy trans fats. This depends on whether the margarine is in stick form or tub form. A better choice is the softer tub margarine that is less hydrogenated and thus has less trans fat than the more saturated and trans fat content found in the stick form.

Source: Environmental Nutrition.

For more myths:

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