Losing weight and being fit and healthy are some of the most common resolutions American’s make at the beginning of each year. There are numerous resources that can help people achieve healthy eating goals including the media (the subject of a previous post on Talking Nutrition), MyPlate which helps individuals use the Dietary Guidelines in the US and the Food Guide in Canada. These resources are largely based around dietary intakes to help people meet their nutrient requirements. But how often do you make a dietary choice because it helps meet your nutrient requirements?
Yesterday I wrote that dietary supplements can be important contributors to nutrient intake and health. Many health professionals reject this premise, fearing it undermines determination to make healthy food choices. Others worry about questionable ingredients being promoted to enhance sexual performance or stimulate metabolism and weight loss. Some fear excessive use of high potency single vitamins.
After years of training and experience, I rarely admit to being a nutritionist at social events or during casual conversations such as a train, plane or bus. The reasoning is simple. When people learn someone has some expertise in nutrition, they usually: 1) express embarassment/guilt about their dietary choices or 2) have a question. The first makes me feel like a Debbie Downer conversation is about to begin. If the second situation leads to an open discussion of science and opinions on nutrition, that is interesting. However, too often people want validation of a belief or action.
Making healthy nutrition choices is a challenge for many Americans. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report highlighted the many nutrient shortfalls in the diet of Americans including vitamins A, D, and C, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and fiber. In 2010 the facts up front-of-pack (FOP) labeling initiative was implemented to help consumers, make healthy choices. The approach is that there are ‘simple’ icons that show calories, nutrients to limit and an option to highlight the content of nutrients to encourage: shortfall nutrients plus iron and protein. These icons are readily noticeable on many products on grocery store shelves but are they resulting in healthier choices?
Problem: Health advisors think processed foods lack nutrition. Consequence: People feel guilty about purchasing and enjoying nutrient-rich foods. Reality: Commercial processing can improve the nutritional content of foods by better nutrient preservation (flash frozen vegetables) and fortification (vitamin D addition to dairy products, iodization of salt, folate fortification of flour). Evidence: CDC nutritional status survey.