As the obesity epidemic grows in scope, so too does the “blame game.” Lack of exercise, over-consumption of food, sedentary work environments, lifestyle choices, biological predispositions, genes…the list of possible culprits for America’s fatness goes on.
Fast food is a common target. Earlier this month, an advocacy group launched a campaign petitioning 26 hospitals across the country to remove a major fast food restaurant from their cafeterias with the aim of sending a “better message” to consumers.
Some of the reasoning behind the group’s initiative comes from a 2006 study published in the journal Pediatrics that concluded that allowing fast food centers to operate in hospitals not only affects guests’ consumption of fast food on the day of their visit, but also unintentionally boosts the perception of the “healthfulness” of fast food in general. Here’s more research that supports the initiative:
The prevalence of obesity-related diseases has risen sharply over the past thirty years, and the number of fast food restaurants in America has more than doubled over the same period (The National Bureau of Economic Research).
Studies have shown that “consumption of fast food among children in the US seems to have an adverse effect on dietary quality in ways that plausibly could increase risk for obesity.”
Studies have shown that increased proximity to fast food restaurants is linked to an increase in obesity.
Courtesy of wagnerfpa.wordpress.com.
So being near to fast food increases the likelihood of obesity, but will removing fast food from hospitals (and other institutions and neighborhoods) help solve the problem?
The New York Times recently reported that studies have shown that “there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity among its children and adolescents.”
Restrictive “diets” and the “diet mentality” in general do not lead to long-term effective weight-loss. What does work, according to a recent study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, is eating less fat, exercising more, using prescription weight loss medications, or participating in commercial weight loss programs.
Calling for removal of fast food from hospitals sends the message that fast food restaurants are “bad” and can be blamed for obesity, lessening personal responsibility for our own health.
Blaming fast food restaurants for obesity can place us on a slippery slope. Should we remove buses from our streets to force people to choose the less convenient, but “healthier” walking or biking options? After all, sitting for long periods of time is correlated with obesity, and most adults do not get the recommended level of exercise.
Similarly, while we should limit consumption of fast food, we can’t eliminate it from the American diet as long as there is a demand for convenient, inexpensive, and (arguably) tasty food. We need to improve health through education and develop incentives that encourage healthy lifestyle decisions, proper nutrition, and exercise.
Perhaps a partnership between hospitals and Weight Watchers (or other proven commercial weight loss programs), or the establishment of walking groups or active events within hospital walls, could promote lasting change.
We won’t make any progress in the fight against obesity by playing the blame game at the expense of taking responsibility for our health into our own hands.
Courtesy of www.topnews.in.
What do you think? Will restricting fast food lead to a decrease in obesity? How can we as individuals, families, and institutions promote a healthier America?
March is National Nutrition Month, and this year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is urging Americans to “Get Your Plate In Shape.” With the help of the “My Plate” model, which replaced the Food Pyramid in June 2011, the experts are giving us a reminder of the healthy nutrition goals we have heard before:
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
Make at least half of your grains whole grains
Switch to fat-free or low-fat dairy
Vary your protein choices
Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars
So if we all know what to do, why do so many of us struggle not only to get our plates in shape, but also to keep them in shape? The problem for many of us is that we aren’t excited about making dietary changes, so we reluctantly begin following nutrition advice without a real plan.
Alternatively, if we take an active role in designing our own plates and developing our own implementation plans for change, we are setting ourselves up for the best chance of success. Here are a few tips to get started:
Analyze Your Plate: Take a look at what, when, and how much you eat every day (meals, snacks, and beverages included), and jot it down in a food journal. Consider the nutritional density of the foods you eat including the amount of carbohydrate and fiber, fat (including saturated or trans fat), protein, sodium, added sugar, and vitamins and minerals. Also make note of how you feel after each meal or snack (too full, still hungry, etc.).
With this information in front of you, you can identify the good food choices you make, as well as the choices that can be improved to create a more balanced nutrition plan that better meets your needs.
Redesign your Plate: There are plenty of generic diet plans created by magazine writers and celebrity trainers that will tell you exactly what to eat every day, but you are in the best position to decide what healthy foods work for you.
For example, your diet plan may tell you to have a spinach salad for lunch (a rich source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Iron), but if you’d rather choke down tar than eat it, it’s not going to make you healthier. Following a diet plan that isn’t for you leaves you feeling frustrated and much more likely to cheat. Instead, consider consulting a doctor or personal trainer to help you design your plate, but make sure that you are the one in charge!
Adjust Your Plate One Item At A Time: Choosing specific, measurable, and manageable goals that you can accomplish in sequence may lead to to greater success than redesigning your plate all at once. For example, start by adding a one-cup serving of vegetables to every meal (as opposed to saying, “I need to eat more vegetables”). The following week, keep the vegetables that you found satisfying, and try adding some healthier protein options.
Another approach is to take a few of the traditional meals you eat often and determine how to make them just a little bit healthier. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new foods or preparation methods. Over time, this methodical approach to change will help you meet your nutritional goals, and you may actually enjoy the process!
What dietary changes have you made in the past that you still stick to today? What changes are you working on now?
The summer is winding down and it’s time to get back into the habit of bringing lunch to work.
The proverbial turkey sandwich, apple, and Doritos might be well-established and slightly boring staples in your brown paper bag. But cheer up! Taking your lunch to work or school packs a benefit punch you might not have imagined.
Here are 3 ways a bagged lunch beats lunch out any day of the week:
Brown-bagging it saves approximately half what you would spend eating lunch out. So, if you’re currently spending $10 a day on lunch and switch to packing your own , that’s a savings of $1,300 per year! You can then put that money towards personal training at the club and reaching your fitness goals.
2. Portion Control and Immediate Gratification
Yes, the sandwich, apple, and even some Doritos can be healthier than eating out. When you pack your lunch, you are in control of what you eat. You’re also prepared when hunger strikes. Ideally, you are packing a lean meat (probably in sandwich form on whole wheat bread), some fruit, a snack, and maybe a small sweet treat. The portion sizes are controlled, and you can eat as soon as you get hungry.
If you’re like many, this scenario should sound familiar. It’s nearing noon. You realize you are hungry, drive to a restaurant, realize you have moved beyond “hungry” and into “starving” territory, wait some more for the server to take your order and then order too much food. You scarf it all down to return to the office on time, and end up feeling lethargic and way too full.
Everyone’s been there, but you don’t have to go there again. If you had your lunch packed, you could walk to the bench just outside your office, eat slowly while people-watching, and even have time for a lap or two around the block.
Which brings us to benefit number three.
3. More Time for Exercise
If you burned even 100 extra calories per day each lunch hour, that adds up to a loss of 7.5 pounds in a year. And with all of the calories you’ll save just by bringing your lunch, it could be even more. I know I would enjoy being 10 pounds lighter by next September!
So, how do you stay clear of the same old boring bagged lunch?
1. Try not to bring the same exact thing every day or you will start to dread your lunch.
Rotate between lower-sodium turkey breast, roast beef, or chicken breast lunch meat, tuna salad, maybe a bean salad or lettuce salad one day, and of course, leftovers.
2. Remake your leftovers if you don’t like eating the same exact thing.
Mix-in whole wheat pasta and some tomato sauce, serve over brown rice, or wrap it up in a flour tortilla with some low-fat cheese. Add in carrots, celery, zucchini, red/green pepper, or cucumber slices and a low-fat dip.
Toss in a few pieces of fruit (apples, bananas, cherries, and cut-up melons are all great, mess-free options), a “snack” item, such as baked chips, low-fat pretzels, or popcorn (remember to stick to the one-ounce serving size!), and a treat such as a fun-sized candy bar, one ounce of dark chocolate chips, or a serving of gummy bears, and you’re all set!
You should also add in a few items for your mid-morning snack and your afternoon snack. And to make it all much more fun, buy yourself a new insulated lunch box while you’re back to school shopping! Your co-workers will be green with envy when they see your Superman Thermos in the fridge.