America’s Nutritional Report; Are We Making the Grade?

Joyce Kavaras, RD, LD

Joyce Kavaras, RD, LD

November 5, 2013

As two-thirds of our population struggles with excess weight and obesity, our nation continues to look for effective ways to help individuals get healthier. When it comes to eating better, there is no shortage of easily accessed information. Yet, are we using that knowledge and putting it into action? According to a recent “report card” issued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, we are not making the grade. The nonprofit group looked at trends in seven nutritional areas, comparing today’s intakes with those in 1970.

Overall, the report shows we have made progress in making healthier choices in some food areas, but we still need improvement in others. Bottom line though, we are failing when it comes to managing the obesity problem. We live in a day and age of a multi-billion dollar diet industry; why is it that we are still obese?

In simple terms, we are eating too much – about 450 more calories per day than we did back in 1970. This amounts to about 164,000 more calories per year which in turn translates to approximately 47 extra pounds of body weight. Not surprisingly, when you look at the statistics on the “average” American man and woman (5’9, 190 pounds and 5’4, 160 pounds respectively), those weights fall about 30 - 45 pounds over the ideal body weight range for the respective heights.

One of the main problems today is that most Americans are unaware of the ingredients, calorie amounts, and nutritional value of their food. Our fast-paced lifestyle perpetuates this problem as we rely on processed and restaurant foods all too often. Added to these factors is that portion size is out of control and those extra 450 calories are easily explained.

We need to become aware of the “elephant” in the room with us and open our eyes to the reality of our food choices. Monitoring and tracking food intake via My Fitness Pal is the perfect place to start. Most of us in UH OptiWeight already do this and have found it to be a most valuable step in the weight loss/management process. Once you are able to reduce your calories to the point where you are meeting your daily needs, then you are ready to start making changes for better health.

Reducing portion sizes and gradually moving toward a diet consisting of whole, nutrient-dense foods while moving away from highly processed, nutrient-poor foods will improve our health and well-being now and as we age. It will also help our nation “make the grade” on our next nutrition report card. Let’s work together and get the job done!

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