New year, new day, new message
By Teresa Wagner, M.S., R.D./L.D.
Director of Dairy Confidence and Medical Outreach, Dairy Max Incorporated
This year, significantly more Americans—66 percent—report that they have made changes in an effort to improve the healthfulness of their diet compared to last year—57 percent—in a survey conducted by the International Food Information Council.
At the same time, an explosion has occurred in the marketplace of symbols and icons touting foods and beverages that are better for you and/or healthier for you. As a result, consumers are confused. They are eager to eat better, but there are no clear-cut answers, and many times trying to do so can become overwhelming. People want tools to help them easily make better choices when given options. They tend to give up on nutrients and nutrition when they’re pressed for time or need to feed their families.
While our patients are overfed, they’re also undernourished, and new research shows Americans are not meeting their average daily needs for key nutrients. Nutrient-rich foods are the solution for keeping your patients on track by providing them the essential vitamins and minerals needed to power a healthy lifestyle while maximizing calories. The Dietary Guidelines define nutrient-dense foods and beverages as those that provide substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals and relatively fewer calories. Rather than simply focusing on calories alone, “good or bad foods” or “nutrients to avoid,” the concept shifts attention to the total nutritive value of foods and beverages.
Now, with many approaches being discussed that may confuse people by telling them how not to eat, we want to empower them by introducing a new, positive approach that shows people how to eat.
A registered dietitian is the expert in food and nutrition and can empower people to make their calories count by choosing nutrient-rich foods. Registered dietitians are highly trained and skilled at putting food science into practical applications and can help people eat the nutrient-rich way. That means getting the most vitamins, minerals and nutrients—but not too many calories—from the foods they choose.
For the first time, “National Registered Dietitian Day” on March 10, 2008 will recognize the unique contribution the registered dietitian makes not only to the health care team but throughout the food and nutrition community. This day falls in National Nutrition Month, a long-standing month recognizing the need to nourish our bodies appropriately to live well and promote health.
For a physician, promoting healthy eating starts in the office. Asking patients about their eating habits, educating them about the importance of balanced nutrition, and recommending a healthy diet pattern that follows the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are all constructive steps a family health care provider can take. A doctor can also help by referring a patient to a registered dietitian when appropriate.
Five easy tips for your patients:
- Choose foods from the store perimeter using the nutrient-rich shopping list, www.nutrientrichfoods.org/living_nutrient_rich/nutrient_rich_shopping_list.html
- Pick colorful produce and whole grains for the nutrition power they need.
- Choose low-fat and nonfat dairy foods. Milk, cheese and yogurt are power packed with calcium and eight other essential nutrients.
- Power up with lean beef, which provides nine essential nutrients, as well as other lean meats.
- Find easy recipes, tips and tools at www.nutrientrichfoods.org or refer to a registered dietitian to assist with specific lifestyles, diagnoses or goals.
As we embark on a new year, the bottom line in the new message of nutrient-rich eating is to pack more vitamins and minerals into fewer calories. This means empowering your patients to consume more fruits, vegetables, low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, lean beef and other lean meats, and whole grains, with fewer high-calorie, nutrient-poor snacks, desserts and beverages.
Remember a new day, March 10, 2008, and celebrate the registered dietitian, an expert in food and nutrition who can assist your patients in choosing these nutrient-rich foods and live well.
To find a registered dietitian in your area, visit www.nutrition4texas.org. For more tools, tips and tactics to choose nutrient-rich foods without a lot of time but with a lot of great taste, visit www.nutrientrichfoods.org. This site offers recipes, meals, shopping lists and more to help people get more nutrition and enjoyment from their calories, as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid.