But, why aren’t the disease rates decreasing?
And, why so many different messages?
No wonder many of us are in a state of confusion about what we should or shouldn’t be eating!
Recently, several different discussions and reports caused us to step back and revisit the question…why is eating healthfully so complicated? Doesn’t it really all come down to…
EAT REAL FOOD?!
Ok, you may be thinking, there they go again…but please just hear us out!
Zonya and I are both busy moms and normal consumers just like you. While Zonya is the expert on nutrition, our family has exposed ourselves to numerous books and research focused on food and nutrition, and then we had to simplify all this down to something that is practical for daily life. Through our coaching and corporate wellness programs, we have also seen first-hand what has been most successful for people to change their eating habits, improve their health and discover the joy of great-tasting food!
This past weekend, we read some of the recent report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC). It is 835 pages, so the first question was "why do we need 835 pages to help people do something as simple as eating healthfully?" The report provides a lot of depressing statistics such as:
- More than 70% of Americans are overweight or obese.
- 60% of Americans have a chronic condition.
- 40% of Americans have 2 or more chronic conditions.
We were very excited (and relieved) to see the report shifting its focus from specific nutrients to broader dietary patterns. After all, we don't consume individual nutrients...instead, we each have a pattern of consuming a combination and foods and the nutrients (or lack of nutrients) they contain.
That said, the report still focuses a lot on nutrients. It talks about important nutrients that are under-consumed (such as Vitamin D, calcium, fiber and potassium) and those that are over-consumed (including sodium, saturated fat and added sugars). There is a lot of good information in the report, but...
does it really help people in their everyday lives?
We frequently hear people say things like, “I know I need to eat fewer carbs, but it is so hard -- that is what my family likes!” Or, “we are trying to focus on more protein and less fat in our diet.” Focusing on the nutrients doesn’t help much when you are scrambling though the grocery store with kids in tow to figure out what you are going to eat for dinner this week, or tonight for that matter!
For example, if you are trying to eat more fiber and fruit, and you grab a box of cereal that says “high in fiber” and “made with real fruit,” you think "score -- this is a great option!" when in reality that cereal is loaded with added sugars and other processed ingredients...so now that cereal is doing more harm than good!
With all this nutrient-focused information, many people are confused and becoming skeptical.
For many years, we heard that cholesterol in food is bad for us…now, we hear that dietary cholesterol doesn’t significantly affect our blood cholesterol. One report tells us that coffee is good for us while, a week later, a report says we should avoid coffee.
This is enough to make someone say “I give up!”
What if, instead, we gave people one simple message…
Eat REAL Food!?
Is it REAL or is it a fake food-like product (has it been produced in a factory and heavily processed)? By talking about REAL food, it would force us to teach people to read and understand ingredient labels…not calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs and protein…but ingredients.
We would also need to enable people to prepare REAL food - in a way that's simple, affordable and full of flavor.
Simply eating an apple, banana or raw or steamed broccoli isn’t going to get people excited or fundamentally change behavior.
But if people learn how to transform these simple ingredients into a flavor-popping meal like an Apple Walnut Pizza, Neapolitan Overnight Oats and Spicy Orange Beef & Broccoli, their cravings can change and they will want more similar meal ideas!
Something to think about…
- Focusing on eating REAL food can naturally address the nutrient issue! It would help us get more of the nutrients we are short on and consume less of the nutrients we should be limiting. This would also help us get the benefits of the nutrients that are naturally contained in REAL food - and the benefit of how all these nutrients work together!
- “Eat REAL Food” is relevant to everyone! This reminds me of a line from one of our favorite movies, Remember the Titans: “Listen up! I don’t care if you’re black, green, blue, white or orange…” In all cases, Eat REAL Food is relevant! It also works for all income classes, genders and ages. Sure, someone with a lower income is going to have to take a different approach than someone with a six-figure salary - but the message and the fundamentals still apply!
- Rather than teaching our kids what NUTRIENTS are good and bad, why not teach them what FOODS are good and bad…and why? And how to read and understand ingredient labels? And how to prepare simple, flavorful foods using REAL ingredients? Now, that is something even our kids can understand and put into practice in their daily decisions!
We have seen first-hand how simplifying the message turns into amazing results! Here are just a few things we have been told:
- “Learning how to read ingredient labels is an eye-opener! Once you understand how to read ingredients, it becomes much easier.”
- “Realizing how to keep it simple has made it easy and so much less stressful!”
- “I can’t believe the flavor from meals that are so easy to prepare. We are now making and enjoying foods we would have never eaten before!”
Just imagine what we could achieve it we shifted our paradigm to a simple message of
EAT REAL FOOD
and equipped people to do just that!