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Healthy Eating: It All Boils Down To 3 Pieces Of Advice

I’m proud to have been selected as the national, nutrition (“mind”) coach for the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Triple Play Fit Family Challenge. This is a 6-week challenge – five families (you can meet the families on the Fit Family Challenge blog) will compete for a grand prize: an all-expenses-paid vacation!

My job is to support the families with evidence-based nutritional information that they can use to establish lifelong healthy eating patterns. Proper nutrition is one of the most critical components of preventive medicine, and can help to reduce the risk for America’s top 3 killer diseases: heart disease, cancer, and stroke (not to mention type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure). If these families help their kids to adopt healthy lifestyles now, they will have a lower lifetime risk of many major diseases. And I hope that the kids will also become evangelists for healthy eating to their peers!

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve learned over the years as a nutrition journal editor, avid foodie, and rehab physician, and I think that (to begin) I can truly boil down all we know about American eating habits into these three pieces of advice (note that these are based on HHS’s Dietary Guidelines For Americans, 2010):

1. Do not let yourself become very overweight or obese.

2. Eat MORE: fruits, vegetables, seafood, whole grains, and low-fat and fat-free dairy products.

3. Eat LESS: trans (animal-based) fats, cholesterol, salt, sugar, and refined grains.

I think that this is a great starting point for healthy eating. Notice that the advice doesn’t include super foods, magic berries, or miracle supplements – because a healthy diet doesn’t rely on those faddish things.

For the next 6 weeks I’ll be sharing my thoughts about nutrition with the families here on the Better Health blog (and at the Fit Family Challenge Blog) so everyone can benefit from the process. In my next post I’ll talk about what we can learn from the National Weight Control Registry – a database of people who managed to lose a substantial amount of weight and keep it off for a minimum of 1 year. (In fact, USA Today just published a story about this database here).

I’ve also chosen to use Dr. Eric Marcotte’s book, “Food Truths, Food Lies” as background reading for the challenge. I think it’s an excellent, practical manual – especially for those of us who need to lose weight.

Thanks for joining the challenge – let me know if you have any questions along the way!


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3 Responses to “Healthy Eating: It All Boils Down To 3 Pieces Of Advice”

  1. Carolyn Thomas says:

    Hi Dr. Val
    Love these three oh-so-basic pieces of advice! And this program Triple Play sounds like a cool and attention-getting way to get some important nutrition awareness information out there.

    But am I the only one out here feeling a bit squirmy by seeing that Coca-Cola logo splashed all over a nutritional awareness pitch as one of the program’s corporate sponsors? Coke’s been a supporter of Boys & Girls Clubs for 50 years (as they are happy to point out on their website). Of course they are – this is precisely their target market, and it fulfills a corporate mandate for social cause marketing strategies.

    This is also why fast food companies sponsor health-focused sporting events, teams and leagues. McDonald’s, for example, ponies up sponsorship dollars for the NHL, Olympic Games, and the FIFA World Cup among countless others. And as Australian researcher Dr. Sandra Jones - co-author of the report “I Eat Milo To Make Me Run Faster” - warns:

    “We can and should prohibit the sponsorship of children’s activities by fast-food companies and manufacturers of nutritionally poor foods (i.e. those that are high in fat, salt and/or sugar) because we are talking about children and the development of food-related attitudes and behaviours that have the potential to influence their health and well-being for the rest of their lives.”

    More on Dr. Jones’ work: http://www.uow.edu.au/content/groups/public/@web/…/uow091751.pdf

  2. Carolyn Thomas says:

    PS Oops that link to Sandra Jones paper may not work. Here’s the study info: Jones, S.C., Mannino, N.L. & Green, J. (2010). ‘Like me, want me, buy me, eat me’: relationship-building marketing communications in children’s magazines. Public Health Nutrition, 13 (12), 2111-2118.

  3. Dr. Val says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, Carolyn. My view is that fast food companies will produce whatever is selling – and if consumers demand healthier options, Coke & McDonald’s et al. will provide it. Fast food is not going away, so the best we can do is teach consumers how to select and request healthier options – Coke owns Dasani water, and McDonald’s has apple slices and salads on their menus… so their products are not “whole cloth” unhealthy. I think it’s great that they give some of their profits to worthy causes – and we may eventually be able to use that funding to change their product lines through nutrition education. In the end, big business is most concerned about their bottom line – we have the purchasing power/collective clout to influence what we’re offered. I think we can win this through education… and if Coke sponsors that, so be it. ;-)

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