Resolve to make healthy choices in 2014

December 31, 2013

New-Year-graphic1   Is it just me, or have you noticed that as soon the ball drops in Times Square to usher in the New Year, weight-loss commercials flood our TV screens.

During the holiday season, I’ve been bombarded with press releases from “experts” selling their diet books or plans. It seems like the low-fat and no-carb diets are so last year, as people have realized the diets are hard to stick with. Nowadays, the newest diet trends are clean eating, where you avoid all processed foods, and juicing.

If you haven’t heard of juicing yet, you will soon. It’s the latest craze on the East and West Coasts, where juice bars are popping up as quickly as frozen yogurt shops have here in the Midwest.

People who “juice” buy a pricy supply of fresh-pressed juice (or buy an expensive at-home juicing machine) and then consume nothing but juice for three to seven days, supposedly to “cleanse” the body and promote rapid weight loss.

Admittedly, the harsh truth is that a lot of us are carrying a few more pounds than we should. Iowa is ranked as the 12th most obese state in the nation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. About two-thirds of Iowa’s population is considered obese.

And being overweight puts us at greater risk for chronic health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, that are not only costly to treat, but reduce our overall quality of life.

Hy-Vee-salad-prep1Yet that doesn’t mean going to extremes, like consuming an all-juice diet, is a lasting solution.

A few years back, I met a wellness coach who helped several Farm Bureau members in northeast Iowa lose weight and get healthy. I still remember her no-nonsense advice.

She told me, straight up, that losing weight – and keeping the weight off – isn’t easy. It isn’t about one-month or one-week diet plans; it’s about making healthier choices every day.

walking-archives1-One of her clients lost more than 15 pounds by making simple changes in her lifestyle, such as ordering the grilled chicken sandwich and a side salad in the drive-thru; drinking more water instead of soda; and reserving just 10 minutes of her day, if that’s all the time she had, to walking on the treadmill.

So instead of trendy diets, stick with commonsense advice. Try to fit more activity in your day, and follow the MyPlate guidelines recommended by dieticians. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, plus one serving of lean protein, one serving of whole grains and low-fat milk or dairy.

Let’s all resolve to take better care of ourselves in 2014, if only so we can stay healthy for our family and loved ones.my-plate1

By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is senior features writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.


Here’s the latest: diet advice isn’t all that new

September 22, 2011

“Americans eat too much fat and sweets and do not get enough exercise.”

That’s the conclusion reached by the nation’s leading nutrition scientist – but it wasn’t made last week, last month or even last year. While the observation looks like it could have come straight from one of today’s many health-focused magazines and websites, it was actually made by W.O. Atwater in the 1890s, according to an exhibit called “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?” at the National Archives in Washington D.C.

While perusing the exhibit, which traces the government’s role in food production and consumption, it struck me that we’re still dealing with many of the same issues that our ancestors faced over the course of the last century. The displays chronicle efforts to improve food safety, advice for quick and nutritious meals and campaigns encouraging more production of certain foods to overcome short-term supply shortages.

I was particularly fascinated by Atwater’s pioneering research on nutrition issues, especially considering the federal government’s renewed interest in the topic. He developed methods to quantify the energy value (calories) in different types of food, and also studied the amount of calories burned in different activities such as reading, ironing and riding a stationary bicycle.

A guide produced in the 1920s listed 100-calorie portions of various types of food, ranging from meat and potatoes to candy and sugar. I guess those 100-calorie snack packs that have popped up on grocery store shelves that past few years weren’t such an original concept after all.

Some of the displays also made me chuckle – like a poster advertising “Vitamin Donuts” that was sent for approval to the government’s food administration during World War II. I’m sure they would have been a hit with my kids, but common sense tells you that even donuts fortified with thiamine aren’t the foundation for a healthy diet.

In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, exhibition curator Alice Kamps said the displays provide insight into the evolution of our understanding of nutrition and the ways it has shaped the foods we eat over time.

“As science revealed new insights about the nutritional value of different foods, our approach to food became more scientific,” she said. “With the benefit of hindsight, we can see where particular ideas about nutrition were overblown or simply inaccurate. We might consider this before we make drastic changes in our diet based on the latest scientific discoveries.”

For me, it became apparent that America’s quest for a balanced diet has been going on for more than a century. While recommendations may change over time, the best advice today really isn’t any different now than it was before Henry Ford produced the first Model T or we spent our evenings camped out in front of the TV or surfing the internet –eat less junk food and exercise more. I’m sure Mr. Atwater would agree.

Written by Tom Block
Tom is news coordinator for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

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