It's time to eat healthier America, seriously

Remember that New Year’s resolution to lose weight? How’s the progress coming?

This month, a team of nonprofits and government agencies are kicking off an outreach campaign called the Weight of the Nation in an attempt to curve the obesity problem in America.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 36 percent of adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese. The CDC uses a formula that incorporates height and weight to produce a body mass index number. This method is sometimes questionable because it doesn’t account for muscle mass, so someone with an athletic build might have a high BMI, but be in good health.

So why are so many Americans bursting at the seams?

In a Newsweek article published last week, author Gary Taubes challenges the Weight of the Nation campaign and its anti-obesity partners – Institute of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health – in their method. He contends the anti-obesity establishment has for years promoted the simple formula of less calorie intake equals less weight.

According to Taubes, America’s problem with obesity might not be with how much we eat, but rather the types of calories we ingest. These bad calories come from two main sources: sugar and refined carbohydrates.

The sugars come in many forms, from cereal frosting gobs to ketchup to soda pop. High fructose corn syrup is in nearly every bad-for-you product in the grocery store. It’s a cheap way for the industry to add flavor, but very taxing on your health.

The unrefined carbohydrates are the lesser-known evil. In fact, many consumers mistakenly think they are eating healthy when they have pastas or breads. Wrong! And marketers use products labeled “whole grain” or “whole wheat” that mislead consumers into thinking they are making the healthier purchase. Wrong again.

Managing a healthier lifestyle might sound daunting, but from personal experience, it gets easier.

For starters, begin cooking at home more. According to a recent report published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, 96 percent of restaurants failed federal standards for sodium, calorie and fat intake. One report from ABC World News said some chain restaurants’ menu items contain twice the daily limit on sodium (salt), meaning you are getting more than the two-day limit on sodium in one sitting.

But you can’t only cook at home and think you’re safe. You have shop smart. If you are going to eat pastas or bread, look for the multigrain label. Also, stop drinking the sodas and juices. Otherwise, expect to increase your waist size and notch a step closer to Type-2 diabetes. (My favorite beverage is water from the tap).

Instead of white rice, buy brown or ask for it when you order off a menu. And don’t run from meats like we’ve been coached to. They are high in proteins.

And I can’t end a column about nutrition without mentioning exercise. To borrow a popular slogan, “Just do it.”

A healthier lifestyle is a transition. Once you begin reading the food labels, the amounts of high sodium and sugars will pop out at you and hopefully persuade you to put the item down. Your taste buds will recalibrate and healthier foods will actually begin tasting better. And at some point, all those foods that make you larger will not taste, nor sound pleasing.


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