Do you ever experience nutrition whiplash? We are bombarded by nutrition information everyday, making it overwhelming to consider what is fact and what is fiction. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2012 “Food & Health Survey,” 52 percent of Americans believe figuring out how to eat healthy is harder than figuring out how to file your own taxes. While it is easy to become frustrated and even cynical about the ever-changing nutrition information, being a smart consumer is important to your health.
While nutritional science has made enormous strides, the diet and weight loss industry are profiting from nutrition misinformation — $60.9 billion worth of nutrition misinformation. This is because a confused consumer is a valuable consumer. With 55 percent of Americans trying to lose weight, it’s never been a better time to get your nutrition facts right. If you are tired of hearing about the latest “super food” or about “3 simple ways to get rid of belly fat,” you are not alone. According to the latest “Food & Health Survey,” 76 percent of Americans feel that the revolving door of nutrition information makes it difficult to know what to believe. This is one reason why the majority of consumers rely on their own research, rather than expert opinions.
As we reflect on March’s National Nutrition Month, how can we make healthy choices in our lives? This year’s theme, “eat right, your way, everyday,” is especially timely. With only a quarter of Americans reporting that their diet is extremely or very healthy, there is definitely room for improvement. But how do we make healthy food choices consistently, especially when faced with so many choices and conflicting messages? Be a smart consumer and trust your gut instincts. Some simple tips to maximize your nutrition are:
1. Color your plate — include a variety of fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack.
2. Move more, eat less — find a physical activity you enjoy and do it. If you are trying to lose weight, start by eating smaller portions of your favorite foods.
3. Check the labels — scan the nutrition facts label of foods and check the serving size, calories, fat, sodium and sugars. Pay attention to the ingredients list too. One of my favorite nutrition apps to take grocery shopping is Fooducate — scan food labels and become an educated consumer.
As a smart consumer, it is important to get the facts right. Some reputable websites for nutrition information include USDA www.choosemyplate.gov and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics www.eatright.org. To learn more about nutrition fact versus fiction, join Vandal Nutrition for “Nutrition Mythbusters” March 29 in the Common’s Horizon Room from 2:30-3:30 p.m.
Marissa Lucas is the campus dietician and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org