Ashland University Professor Suggests Establishing Dietary Intake Philosophies for New Year's Resolutions

1/4/11 ASHLAND, OH -- An Ashland University professor suggests that New Year's resolutions should reflect healthy dietary intake philosophies instead of weight loss resolutions that usually focus on "giving up" certain foods.

"As the New Year begins, now is the time to reflect on past successes as well as failures and develop some healthy philosophies related to dietary intake," said Dr. David Vanata, associate professor of Foods and Nutrition, and director of the dietetics program at Ashland University. "Developing guiding philosophies related to food will assist those interested in making some positive changes that last much longer than the typical New Year's resolutions."

Vanata said that while there are numerous philosophies or strategies associated with healthy eating, increasing your awareness about these areas is the first phase. He listed several dietary suggestions to get people started on this path toward "healthy eating."

1) Think Fish
Eat fish at least "two times a week." While "twice a week" may be your goal, you can initially set your sights on eating fish once during the week. There are many health benefits associated with incorporating fish into your diet. Fish are good sources of high-quality protein and are the best dietary sources of certain essential fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA. Besides lowering your risks for high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease, there is evidence that eating fish can help improve both your mood (make you feel happier) and your cognitive ability (thinking and learning).

Student-athletes might be interested to know that fish can help with muscle recovery after a strenuous workout, practice or game. Not all fish are created equal; some are more nutritious than others. While many people have eaten or do eat tuna fish, what I call the "gateway" fish to becoming a fish consumer, the best fish choices, those containing the highest amounts of beneficial fats that are commonly available, include: rainbow trout, Atlantic salmon and Coho salmon. Those fish with the least healthful benefits include: tilapia, and catfish. Fish sticks don't count, and besides they are generally produced from Pollock, whitefish, or cod, which are not as nutritious as trout or salmon.

2) Got Skim?
When drinking milk, chose skim milk. There is relatively new evidence that many sources of whole milk, as well as 2 percent milk, are higher in certain hormones, such as progesterone and estrogen, than skim milk. This is due to obtaining the milk from cows during their later stages of milk production. High intake levels of these hormones may increase the risk for certain forms of cancers among some individuals, as well as potentially being counter- productive for muscle development among male athletes.
The overall take-home message is whether white or chocolate milk, the best choice is skim. If you are a whole (regular) milk drinker, move yourself toward 2 percent milk, then 1 percent, and eventually skim. This gradual transition will make switching to skim fairly easy over the course of a month or two. A "fun fact" to know about regular whole milk is that this type of milk is typically 3.25 percent fat, not 100 percent, so switching to 2 percent milk is only a reduction of 1.25 percent, it is not a change from 100 percent to 2 percent. Knowing this may make this change that much easier.

While milk is a good source of calcium and vitamin D, which are involved in bone formation and metabolism, these nutrients also are associated with improving weight loss among some individuals as well as reducing the possible risks for certain forms of cancer.

3) Nutrients Come from Foods, not Pills
Nutrition, seldom if ever, comes in the form of a pill. As individuals' lives become busier and more hectic, it is easy to fall into the trap of popping pills or supplements instead of eating a varied and balanced diet. Many individuals opt to take a multivitamin as a form of 'nutritional insurance." We often confuse ingestion with absorption. Not everything we eat gets absorbed.  This can be very true for certain supplements that come in pill or other forms. Do not rely on multivitamins or multiminerals to supply you all the essential nutrients that you need on a daily basis.

Variety and moderation are two terms that are poorly understood and many times are distorted in meaning to justify an individual's unbalanced or preferred dietary choices or habits.  What is moderate to one person may seem excessive to another. One way to increase the variety among your dietary intake is to focus on the concept of color. Look at your plate or the foods that you are eating, how colorful is your plate? Does it exist of reds, yellows, greens, purples, oranges, or is it drab with only whites and browns? Increasing color will lend itself to increasing variety which will provide you with many of the essential nutrients not found in multivitamins or pills. Unfortunately, the colorful variety of M&Ms and gummy bears don't count.

Moderation can be addressed by following a principle known as "Hara Hachi Bu," which roughly translates to eat until you are 80 percent full. Most individuals consume food until they are no longer hungry or full, and adjusting this thinking will result in a more moderate intake during meals which can also be accomplished by the next listed philosophy, "think when you eat."

4) Think When You Eat
Much has been written about the concept of "mindful eating" being aware of the food and the act of eating each time we sit down for a meal. There are greater distractions available to people today such as cell phones, computers and other mobile devices that can interfere with the experience of eating. Too often individuals will be multitasking while consuming food, unaware of what or how much food they are actually eating in an almost repetitive zombie-like pattern. If one begins to think while they are eating, about the taste and texture of the foods, the environment and other sensory experiences, their awareness of these components associated with eating will result in a more moderate intake by allowing your body the time to process the event. When eating becomes a habit based on the time of day, it can fall into a series of mindless eating episodes, barely memorable or recalled. Smell, taste, and savor each bite of food as you think about what you are doing. Eating should be an enjoyable experience, increasing your awareness can lend itself to a greater overall appreciation for the act of eating and the foods that we chose to consume.

Ashland University (<>) is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.