At a recent health related meeting, someone was lecturing the audience of health professionals about the virtues of choosing fruit over brownies for dessert. Then, in order to shame those who might do so, the person asked for a show of hands on who would choose the brownie. I raised my hand (me, the dietitian)…I was the only one in the audience who raised my hand. The point to this story is that all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle that includes a variety of nutritious foods and physical activity.
Every five years, a new set of Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) sheds more light on nutrition science details and updates what we know about eating right. In reflection of the new DGAs, the 2016 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ National Nutrition Month® theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” Basically, that means – eat more fruits and vegetables, keep your splurges sensible, and embrace balance, variety, and moderation. This being said, no food should be vilified.
In fact, the current recommendation says limit added sugars to less than 10% of total calories – not to avoid added sugar all together. For a 2000 calorie typical American diet, that means 200 calories. This level of intake is thought to give people sufficient room in their diet to include key nutrients while keeping overall calorie intake at appropriate levels. All calories contribute to body weight, not just those from added sugars. When we restrict foods unnecessarily, we set ourselves up for bingeing on those foods later or sneaking them when no one is around…and possibly consuming them in excess. Consuming added sugars in excess can contribute to obesity and degenerative diseases. Embracing balance, variety and moderation allows us to eat our food and enjoy it too.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, reminds us that how, when, why and where we eat are just as important as what we eat. Making sure to enjoy the sights, sounds, memories and interactions associated with eating are essential to developing an overall healthy eating plan from the basic food groups (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, meat, fat and dairy) as well as a healthy relationship with food. A healthy eating plan emphasizes balancing a variety of food and beverage choices within an individual’s energy needs, rather than focusing on any one specific food or meal. In other words, a healthy lifestyle balances the foods and activities we enjoy with those we need. Improving overall health requires a lifelong commitment to healthful lifestyle behaviors, emphasizing maintainable and enjoyable eating practices and regular physical activity.