National Consumers League

Consumer group: Moderation key during National Nutrition Month

February 27, 2014

Contact: NCL Communications, Ben Klein, (202) 835-3323, benk@nclnet.org

Washington, DC--March marks the beginning of National Nutrition Month, and the National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, is reminding consumers of the importance of developing healthy dietary and physical activity practices this month and year-round.

Obesity continues to plague Americans: more than a third are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An additional third of American adults are overweight. There was some good news this week from the CDC, however. Among kids ages 2 to 5 the obesity rate dropped from 14% in 2003-2004 to just over 8% in 2011-2012,. That represents a drop of 43%, CDC said.

The overweight and obese are at risk for heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and other life-threatening illnesses. National Nutrition Month is sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. During March advocates and educators will focus on the importance of making informed choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. In observance of the month, NCL offers consumers five tips for developing a healthier diet:

  1. Increase intake of whole grains, making half of all grains consumed whole grains.
  2. Reduce consumption of soda and juice drinks containing high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.
  3. Monitor and minimize calorie intake from alcoholic beverages.  
  4. Be aware of large portion sizes, especially when dining out.
  5. Prepare more meals at home, where you have more control over the ingredients, including salt, sugar, and fat. 

Cutting down on some of the most calorie-dense foods that are easy to consume in large quantities, such as sodas, chips, cakes, and cookies, is a big step in the right direction.  NCL has prepared a consumer-friendly factsheet of the major sources of calories in the American diet to help identify which foods consumers tend to overindulge in.  Surprisingly, some foods, like candy (slightly more than 2% of calories), are not on the list.  Others, like soda, pizza, cakes, and cookies figure high on the list.

Most important to maintaining a healthy diet is eating mostly low-calorie, low fat, and nutrient dense foods.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends, through its “My Plate” campaign, that fruits and vegetables comprise half of each meal. Health advocates also recommend that Americans get into the habit of checking nutrition labels, which will be updated under new federal regulations for the first time in 20 years.  Almost every packaged food item includes the Nutrition Facts Labels; most importantly, these labels provide calories per serving and help consumers monitor and control intake for a 2,000 calorie a day diet. The new Nutrition Facts Label will reflect more accurate caloric information – a bag of corn chips, which most people eat in one sitting, will have a caloric listing that reflects calories in the whole bag, not 2 ½ servings, for example, as we see so often today. The new label will include larger font and a listing for added sugars, which is useful information.  

Many restaurants today post calories on their menus, which is also helpful in keeping caloric intake under 2,000 a day.

We need to be realistic in helping Americans reach and maintain healthy weights. “Very restrictive diets may be impossible to maintain in the long-term,” said Sally Greenberg NCL Executive Director. “Indulging in a sweet treat in moderation, particularly dark chocolate, which has in recent years been revealed to offer health benefits, may make following a healthy diet and the long-term benefits of weight loss more achievable.” The American Dietetic Association echoes this idea. For those with a sweet tooth, Kerry Neville, MS, RD a registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokeswoman, recommends small indulgences, like a small candy bar, as an aid in maintaining a healthy diet and curbing cravings.

Physical activity is also critical for maintaining a healthy weight. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes, or two and a half hours, of moderate intensity physical activity, such as walking at a brisk clip or riding a bike, each week.

“Not everyone can or will commit that kind of time to getting physical exercise, so it’s important to know that even a little exercise is better than none,” said Greenberg. “Once or twice a week at the gym or a brisk walk during the week can yield very beneficial rewards.”

For more Nutrition Month tips, visit nclnet.org or the factsheet.

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About the National Consumers League 
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.