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Posts Tagged ‘nutrition education’

Eating trends vary from year to year. The same holds true for 2015 as we reach this year’s half-way mark. The Dairy Council of California compiled a list of these food-related shifts, many that emphasize better health. See if these changes have influenced your lifestyle.

Healthy eating has come to mean more than nutrients. The term now encompasses environmental issues; GMO produced foods, hormones and antibiotics used in food production, organic foods, and water usage.

Dietary patterns shifted for the forthcoming 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The committee compiling the guidelines discussed not only the healthly style patterns of the U.S., but the healthy Mediterranean and vegetarian style patterns as well.

The use of sugar remains controversial. Most health professionals agree that we, as a society, consume too much. Sugar is often implicated in such conditions as diabetes and obesity. New guidelines may advise reducing sugar added to the diet to less than ten percent of total calorie intake.

The sodium controversy continues. Major health organizations differ on the current recommended levels of 1500 to 2300 mg/day. Currently, consumption of sodium is about double the recommendations. Some health groups maintain that lower sodium levels benefit only about one-third of the population and certain segments of people need more sodium than currently suggested.

Protein remains the major nutrient for building muscle. It also plays a significant role in weight management, bone health, and blood sugar control. Meat and dairy continue as sources of highest quality protein. Protein seems to benefit consumers more when eaten at evenly distributed intervals throughout the day.

Probiotics and gut microbiome interests have increased in recent years. Who would have considered this area as a major player for health? Probiotics benefit intestinal health and the immune system. Current research has focused on its preventive effects in chronic diseases including cancer, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Microbiome may influence processes that affect health and disease as varied as food digestion to brain function.

Snacks now provide about one-fourth of the daily calories consumed plus a great proportion of the day’s supply of fat, sugar, and salt. Snacks can taste good and add substantially to the day’s nutrient needs. However, too many people continue to indulge in less nutritious choices.

Nutrition education is changing. The increasing use of technology helps consumers access their own information on nutrition needs. The internet has both good and bad sources. For reliable resources, stick with government websites to assure updated, accurate food facts.

Change is inevitable. A positive note for these 2015 trends is the expanding definitions and dialogue for substituting less nutritious foods for healthier ones. That’s a trend that affects all of us.

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For me, the annual Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics’ Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo is the highlight of nutrition education. I enjoy seeing long-time friends, hearing the latest nutrition research, and visiting many booths of the more than 200 food-related exhibitors.

Companies represented at the Expo serve a vital purpose as they share information, and often samples, of the latest products introduced to the consumer market. Each year, vendors promote old favorites as well as new products or nutrients.

Artificial sweeteners were among many ingredients repeated at the exhibit. Although I tolerate the taste, I prefer sugar or skipping all sweeteners. Sugar-substitutes showed up in a variety of products. Beverage companies touted the 10-calorie drinks by enhancing flavor with a little sugar. If you, like most, enjoy  the taste of non-nutritive sweeteners and the thought of lower calories, go for it.

Featured this year were numerous products incorporating less-liked vegetables—collard greens, kale, beets, and a variety of other vegetables. Smoothies abounded with these ingredients. As I passed a sign for V-8 juice, I envisioned a refreshing tomato-based drink to quince my thirst. What I found were newer mixtures of vegetables. My palette failed to adjust. I also didn’t care for another vendor’s smoothie heavy on collard greens. Vegetables are a  staple in my diet. Although collards are less familiar in my area, I love turnip and mustard greens from our garden but not prepared into smoothies. I favor fresh tender greens, washed and lightly cooked until tender and served with catfish, ham, white beans, or any number of other great foods. Curly-leaf kale, sowed in my garden to use as garnish, was so tasty that is has become a favorite for cooking like other greens.

Regardless of how you use them, dark green leafy vegetables are an important part of any diet. They are:

  • High in nutrients: Provide Vitamins A, C, and K; folate; calcium; phytonutrients (carotenoids, flavonoids, and glucosinolates); and are a good source of fiber.
  • Low (or no) fat and carbohydrates: They yield from 10 to 30 calories per cup.
  • Versatile: Eat raw, steamed, sautéed, or baked.
  • Available in abundant varieties: Try kale; chard; spinach; collard, mustard, turnip, and beet greens; Asian mustard greens; bok choy (baby, baby shanghai); and others.

Maybe your taste-buds differ from mine. That’s why we have new products on the market—to meet consumer’s preferences and needs. If you like vegetable smoothies—great. It’s always your choice. As for me, I think I will stay with a big bowl of cooked greens with a nice hunk of cornbread served up with unsweetened tea.

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