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Facts Not Fads: Eat Right for Life, MU Nutrition Expert Says

March is National Nutrition Month

March 11, 2008

Story Contact:  Jennifer Faddis, (573) 882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. –Nearly every day, new information about food can be found on television, in the newspaper and on the internet. Sometimes, a friend or a new book endorses a trendy diet plan. Sorting through all the information can make healthy eating seem like a complex puzzle. A University of Missouri nutrition expert believes more people need to get back to the basics and shake off the fads.

“I’m not sure how something so simple became so complicated,” said Pam Hinton, associate professor of nutritional sciences in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. “Nutrients haven’t changed; the foods that have the nutrients haven’t changed. If people simply followed the food pyramid, most would lose weight.”

Many people believe that healthy eating is just too hard. Hinton says the problem is that people make the obstacles larger than they really are. For example, she said vegetables can be cooked in the microwave just as easily as heating processed food.

Moderation and variety are the keys to long-term healthy eating. It’s also important to choose high quality foods over low quality foods. Fast food and snack foods are low quality, which means they have a lot of calories without a lot of nutrients.
“Beware that you can take a high quality food and lessen the quality,” Hinton said. “Don’t add processed cheese sauce to the broccoli or deep fry the veggies.”

 People fight change, and the first thing that must change in order to eat better is an individual’s mindset. Once people are determined to eat better, it will happen, Hinton said. She suggests that people experiment with some changes and see if they feel better. Above all, don’t fall for diet fads. In the long-run, fads do not work because they are usually modifications that people cannot sustain.

“Fad diets appeal to people because they focus on weight loss and not on overall health,” Hinton said. “We want people to focus on nutrition and health. People need to recognize that there are benefits to be gained from a healthful diet besides just weight loss. The risk for virtually every chronic disease is greater for people who are overweight. It’s not just about how people look; weight is a part of overall health.”