Trends in Nutrition Attitudes.Healthy Eating Out.

If you’re eating more vegetables, fish and berries you’re a part of a nationwide nutrition trend identified by the American Dietetic Association. For two decades the ADA has been tracking what American’s eat, what they know about nutrition and how they feel about it. This year’s Nutrition and You: Trends 2011 consumer opinion survey found that while two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese, a full half of Americans say they are doing all they can to eat a healthy diet. But, just like a tough love personal trainer who tells you to ‘give me five more push ups’ dietitians insist folks have to put more effort into eating right because of increasing rates of obesity, diabetes and other nutrition-related health conditions. “We need to communicate to everyone the positive message that change is necessary and possible,” says registered dietitian and ADA spokesperson Jeannie Gazzinga-Moloo. And apparently some folks are so sick of hearing advice on what not to eat that 20% responded “Don’t Bother Me” and confessed they don’t feel diet and exercise are important to them. This group is mostly male and less likely to have a college education.

Dietitians gathered this week for the ADA’s annual Food & Nutrition Conference in San Diego responded to the challenge of making nutrition advice more palatable. “I like to tell people what they can eat more of and keep the messages positive such as eat more fiber. Fiber found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables are important for heart health, digestive health and in weight management because it helps with satiety,” says dietitian Katie Clark who counsels clients in the San Diego area. “I believe as you add more healthy foods you cut out bad ones because there’s not room for both.”

Going Up: percent saying they’ve increased consumption

Vegetables -- 49 percent

Whole-grain foods 48 percent

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Berries – 48 percent

Fish- 46 percent say they’re eating more

Chicken – 44 percent

Low-fat foods- 43 percent

Low-sugar foods – 34 percent

Low-sodium foods -31 percent

Going Down: Percent saying they’ve decreased consumption

Beef -- 39 percent

Pork- 35 percent

Dairy products- 22 percent

What does it mean?

Gazzinga-Maloo says cutbacks in beef, pork and dairy may reflect a movement to cut down on saturated fats but cautions, “Eliminating dairy can also reduce intake of calcium and vitamin D.” That’s why dietitians advise low fat or non fat dairy products. With regard to the growing popularity of foods like berries and fish she believes that many people see an easy fix for better health, “Consumers feel better if they are doing something without really having to engage in major changes.” So what’s the best way to get more folks more interested in improving their diets? Rebecca Scritchfield goes straight for the taste defense and uses avocados as an example, “Shoot for avocados! They are rich and satisfying and have a nice creamy texture that goes so well with crunchy salads and the heart healthy fats help the body absorb vitamins and minerals in other foods.” Meanwhile, Gabrielle Kay Willis, dietitian and personal trainer at the Victory Family YMCA in Yorktown, VA worries about people who make changes in their diet with too much enthusiasm, “Some people try to do too much at once and are gung ho to eat six pieces of fruit and get bloated. If you don’t normally eat fresh fruit then have one piece of fruit at lunch instead of the chips. Small changes are easier to live with.”

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