Never say never
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Q: Tell me it’s not true-- that you never eat a potato chip. I saw an article about 8 foods dietitians never eat and so we consumers shouldn’t either. The list also included white bread, regular soft drinks (including sweet tea), bacon, packaged muffins, veggie sticks, cheese in a can, sweetened cereal, and microwave and movie- theatre popcorn. — DM, Greenville
A: You have NEVER heard me say or write “NEVER eat … (fill in the blank)” unless you have a very special condition or allergy that your physician told you to 100% avoid a specific food. I eat just about everything. I am not sure how many dietitian/nutritionists there are in the country.
Google says there are 60,300 dietitians employed in the U.S. I can guarantee you we don’t all eat the same foods and beverages. Our choices are informed by the quality of the scientific evidence, family history of disease, current health conditions including allergies and sensitivities, budget, preferences, culture and tradition, what our families will eat and drink, values such as animal rights and sustainability, time and convenience and food preparation skills.
Most of us follow guidelines issued by health experts. Some may study the scientific literature and apply it to their and their patients’ lives. Dietitians are required to take continuing education to be aware of the best evidence for healthy eating. When you look for a dietitian, just like any other health professional, find one that suits your style and interests.
When I work with patients, I try to honor their choices while giving them the best evidence for consuming (or not) selected foods. We work together to find an eating approach they will follow faithfully to meet their personal goals.
One of my colleagues said on the rare occasion she has a pimiento cheese sandwich, it’s on white bread — it just doesn’t taste right any other way. If you read the Nutrition Facts label you know that the color of the bread doesn’t really tell us, it’s nutritional value.
I own up that I encourage adults and children to limit sugar sweetened tea and sodas which provide calories with little other nutrition. The American Heart Association’s position would allow an 8-ounce soda each week for a child or woman, and a little more for men. That’s what my mom allowed us as a special treat when we were children — she knew sugar wasn’t good for our teeth and soda was (and still is) expensive.
One of my colleagues shared this description of her registered dietitian staff members. One is a vegan and an animal rights advocate, another follows a low carb eating approach while, yet another is gluten free and monthly following FODMAP, another is just out of school and follows the latest diet trend. She said they can’t share a meal unless everyone brings their own food.
If you read or watch health, food or environment stories you are hearing more about plant based or plant centered diets. I like to remind folks that the DASH eating approach is a proven way of eating to manage weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and many other conditions.And, it is plant based but still allows some meat and dairy. There seems to be a worldwide movement to vilify meat and dairy — for lots of reasons, not all of them health related. But doctors, dietitians, and health professionals know it’s easy to consume an unhealthy vegan or plant-based diet if you don’t plan. As I wrote recently, the experts all agree on one thing — eat more vegetables and fruit.
Well, I thought all experts agreed until I opened my computer yesterday to read an on-line newspaper. A story came up with the headline that shouted Do Not Eat America’s favorite vegetable. I had to squint to see that it was an “advertorial” — paid for story. I will save you the almost 30 minute it took to watch the program. It started like so many of these programs — a physician telling you his story and then how in his personal journey he discovered what would help him manage his weight, his gut health and everything else that was wrong with him.
I am not sure I actually heard him name the vegetable you should never eat ... it may have been GMO corn or it might have been tomatoes or maybe it was all of the Dirty Dozen (I wrote about them in April). He also talked about ways that pesticides contaminate even your own home grown produce. Near the end he finally name the three digestive superfoods he promised to tell us about at the beginning: 1) chicory root, 2) Therapeutic class probiotics (TCPs) and 3) vitamin B complex. I really don’t like advertorials like this one that bashes our food supply, the food industry, farmers and others and then wants to sell you something.
If you would like some reasonable plant-based diet advice that does suggest you limit some items but doesn’t say NEVER, look at the Healthy Plate by Harvard experts. You can find it at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate. And yes, I enjoy potato chips, but not every day.
Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Ph.D., is an affiliate professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.