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Published: Tuesday, 3/6/2007

Avoid food fads for good nutrition

Forget fad diets. Make 2007 fad-free and filled with good nutrition.

That's the message of National Nutrition Month.

Since 1973, the American Dietetic Association has designated March as National Nutrition Month to promote healthful eating by providing practical nutrition advice and focusing on making good food choices and developing physical activity habits.

This year, the ADA says the effective way to achieve a long-term healthful lifestyle is to be 100 percent fad free. Too often, people adopt fad diets rather than focusing on overall health. The best guidelines are the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid.

"At Wood County Hospital, we plan to use this topic to show that all food groups are important and that no food should be eliminated from the diet. It is a chance for us to promote trying new foods and a variety of foods rather than taking foods away, as many recent fad diets have done," says Kayla Scherf, Bowling Green State University dietetic intern, who is spearheading the program for the hospital.

Activities, posters, and a quiz on fads and myths for a contest are among the featured ways of promoting this idea. Through Thursday in the hospital cafeteria, there will be unique foods and vegetables to sample during lunch. "This helps health-care professionals too," says Tim Bauman director of food and nutrition services. "There's enough information to help caregivers help others."

At Maumee City Schools, "our school lunch gives healthy choices, so we tell kids and parents, 'You don't have to turn to food fads,'•" says Mary Bottoni, food service director. In fact, Maumee City Schools food service is switching to whole-grain products in March. A Wellness Program for grades 3-5 will encourage physical activity and a healthful diet; it will be held March 19-23 in all four Maumee elementary schools.

ADA defines "food fads" as exaggerated beliefs that eating (or not eating) specific foods, nutrient supplements, or combinations of certain foods may cure disease or convey special health benefits or offer quick weight loss.

You've heard about them: Dr. Phil's Ultimate Weight Solution, The "New" Atkins Diet, The Zone Diet, and The South Beach Diet are some examples. In 2007, The Sonoma Diet, The Cheater's Diet, The Flavor Point Diet, The Supermarket Diet, and The Longevity Diet were among titles of bestselling diet books.

Fad diets are not new. They can be traced to 1820 with the Vinegar and Water Diet made popular by Lord Byron. In 1825, the Low Carbohydrate Diet first appeared in the Physiology of Taste by Jean Brillat-Savarin.

In 1930, the Hay Diet advised carbohydrates and proteins not be allowed in the same meal.

In 1961, the Calories Don't Count Diet resulted in the FDA filing charges regarding the diet's claims. The Scarsdale Diet in 1987 involved low-carbohydrate, low-calorie diet plan. The list goes on and on.

The ADA advises that there is no "super food" or diet approach that can reverse weight gain resulting from overeating and inactivity. Most fad diets don't teach new eating habits and many require you to give up favorite foods.

When fad diets require you to avoid foods and entire groups of food, beware. Studies have shown that balance and variety are needed for good health.

Note that the empty calories of pop, candy, and chips do not constitute a food group. It's OK to give up these foods, which have little nutritional benefit.

Food and nutrition misinformation can have a harmful effect on health, well-being, and the economic status of consumers. Fad diets can be expensive.

My motto is: Eat a variety of foods in moderation.



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