Healthy Eating is Simple, Right?

At first glance, healthy eating seems so simple. If you want something sweet, we say, try fruit for dessert. So our clients go to the supermarket and what do they see next to the strawberries? Tubs of “strawberry” glaze, void of any fruit. And prepackaged shortcakes. All of a sudden, making a healthy choice isn’t so simple.

This is just one example of how our food choices are influenced by many factors. Things like product placement and marketing make the simple act of buying fresh produce more complicated for consumers.

You can see all the things that influence our food choices on our new poster – The American Diet.

There’s so much information on this poster, it is overwhelming. That’s the point. From social media to GMOs, celebrity diets to infomercials for fat-melting supplements, the American Diet is complicated.

It’s up to us to help people figure it out.

How can we do this? We’re glad you asked. Here are some ideas for you…

  1. Teach a class using our American Diet PowerPoint presentation. The slides and handouts touch on each of the eight systems that impact the food choices we make today.
  2. Use The American Diet concept as a project for high school students. Assign each student or small group an area to research. Have them create their own presentations to teach what they’ve learned to the rest of the class.
  3. Use The American Diet poster to see what people want to learn about. Let them ‘vote’ by choosing one or two ideas from the poster. You’ll find out which topics to feature in your upcoming classes.
  4. Display The American Diet poster at a health fair. Invite people to write their thoughts on sticky notes and post these for others to read.

In individual counseling or group settings, you can ask some great educational questions to generate discussion:

  1. Do you find yourself always searching for a magic bullet? For what – weight loss? Strength? Clear skin? To avoid your family’s health history?
  2. Do nutrition claims like ‘high in protein,’ ‘gluten-free,’ or ‘zero cholesterol’ get your attention? What was the last food advertisement you saw or heard? How do you think it impacts what you eat? How do you know if the claim is true?
  3. Are you or someone you know on a diet? Is it science-based? What do you think about celebrities and non-health professionals promoting diets? How are they qualified?
  4. What does convenience mean to you? Are you willing to pay more? Sacrifice taste or nutrition?
  5. What food culture did your grandparents or great grandparents live in? How is your food culture the same or different?
  6. What do you think about health-promoting ingredients being added to unhealthy foods, like hot dogs with omega-3 fatty acids or sugary cereal that’s high in fiber?
  7. What have you heard about genetically modified foods? What are the benefits for you? For the world? Why do people fear GMOs?
  8. What do you think the people on the poster are doing? Looking up restaurant reviews on their phones? Searching for recipes? Taking pictures of their dinner to post on social media? How do you use your phone when you are eating? Do you order delivery? Grocery shop? Or share photos of your food?

Talking about the topics featured on The American Diet graphic is definitely more complicated than teaching MyPlate or heart-healthy eating. But when consumers are aware of all the factors influencing them, they’ll have the knowledge and insight to make better choices.

Hopefully, they’ll become healthy food and nutrition influencers themselves! 

Nutrition Facts for Everyone

The Nutrition Facts label is a valuable tool, but many people don’t use it. Maybe they’re in a hurry and don’t take time to read it. Or maybe they see a bunch of numbers and unfamiliar terms and turn the package right back over.

Tufts Researchers estimate that the new food label, showing added sugars, could save up to $31 billion dollars in health care expenses over 20 years. The amount saved for societal costs is about double that amount.

Our Food Label theme has lots of options for helping your clients make sense of the Nutrition Facts panel. A good place to start – our simple Food Label handouts, poster, and banner. This version breaks it all down to the basics, making the Nutrition Facts label easier for everyone to understand and use.

Take a look at our simple Food Label Handout Tearpad. One side has an easy-to-read Nutrition Facts panel with three basic tips on how to read it:

  • Step 1 is to Count Calories – check the serving size, calories per serving, and number of servings per package.
  • Step 2 is to Check These for Heart Health – choose foods that are lower in saturated fat and sodium; keep trans fat to zero.
  • Step 3 is to ask Is This Nutritionally Valuable? – select foods that are nutrient dense and a good source of fiber.

The other side is a very handy MyPlate Healthy Shopping List featuring healthy choices:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean protein
  • Whole grains
  • Low fat and low sugar dairy products
  • Other foods (like condiments and seasonings)

As you are shopping, why not create a small bookshelf of interesting packages that have good lessons? Some examples include bottles of beverages that look like one serving but are 3. Or healthful sounding rice mix packages that have a full day’s supply of sodium in a small 160 calorie serving. Or the soup that says reduced sodium that is still high in sodium for the calories it contains? And of course there is the “all natural food” that is filled with saturated fat. I am sure you have a lot of examples. These can make great ice breakers for classes, counseling sessions, and health fairs. And it can make for a fun, find the best label contest if you offer a variety of choices for the same food like a tomato soup or can of beans or packages of frozen entrees.

These handouts are the perfect start to learning to shop for healthier food. If you want a more in-depth approach, check out our Food Label Math banner, poster, and tearpad.

By Hollis Bass, MEd, RD

Get 15% off all food label education items this week only by using this link.

References:

  1. https://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/fda-added-sugar-label-could-be-cost-effective-way-improve-health-generate-savings
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141104141731.htm

Healthier choices are as easy as 1-2-3

Our Healthier Choices 123 materials provide a simple way to encourage people to make healthy lifestyle changes. The three step concept is perfect for all audiences, from busy, budget-conscious adults to short-attention-span kids.

Set up a health fair or table display with the Healthier Choices 123 poster or banner as the focal point. Then add an activity to go along with each step. Here are some ideas:

Step 1 – Drink water instead of sugary drinks.  

  • Fill an empty 20oz soda bottle with 16 teaspoons of sugar. Compare that to a bottle of water that has zero teaspoons of sugar.
  • Energy drinks, teas, and sports drinks can have as much sugar as soda. Display bottles and cans of these beverages so people can check the grams of sugar per serving.
  • Choose alternatives: water (add fruit or herbs) or unsweetened tea. Have a pitcher of ice water, small cups, and some cut up fruit for people to add.
  • Replacing one can of soda per day with water saves more than 50,000 calories in a year. Think of the money you’ll also save (tap water is free!).

Step 2 – Choose activity instead of screens.

  • How many more calories do you burn by moving instead of sitting? At least twice as many!
  • Replacing 30 minutes of screen time with 30 minutes of brisk walking will help you burn an extra 40,000+ calories per year.
  • Write different 10-minute activities on small pieces of paper or index cards (walk the dog, do laundry, vacuum, shoot baskets, etc). Fold them and put them in a large bowl or jar. Let each person take out three. When they do all three in a day, they’ll have moved for 30 minutes.

Step 3 – Choose fruits and veggies instead of sugary or fried foods.

  • Fruits and vegetables have fewer calories but more nutrients compared to foods like chips, French fries, and cookies.
  • Replacing a bag of chips with an apple will save you 25,550 calories per year.
  • Use food models, pictures, or real food to compare calories in fruit- and vegetable-rich meals vs higher fat choices. For example, you could show two meal choices at McDonald’s: a southwest grilled chicken salad (350 calories) vs a double cheeseburger & medium fries (770 calories).

As a take-home message, set out blank index cards and colorful markers. Ask people to write or draw the healthier choice they plan to make for each step. Tell them to keep the card in their wallet or on their refrigerator – wherever it will remind them of the changes they want to make.

Click here to get 15% off this collection for the first week of April 2019.