Nutrition trends are mixed blessing for U.S. consumers


March 01, 1994|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Special to The Sun

Good news! Despite media hype about nutritional backlash, American eating really is moving in a healthier direction. Here are some statistics, gleaned from several national surveys, tossed out by a "trends" speaker at a recent meeting.

* Americans are reducing consumption of high-fat foods, eating more low-fat foods and changing cooking methods. They are also eating more food overall. There has been an 8 percent increase in per capita food supplies over the last 21 years, with more than half of the increase occurring during the last five years.

* Consumption of fresh vegetables is increasing, although Americans are still not eating the recommended five servings per day.

* From 1970 to 1990, per capita consumption of red meat declined 15 percent, while consumption of fish and shellfish increased 28 percent and poultry increased 65 percent.

* Vegetarianism doubled since 1980 to approximately 6.7 percent of the population.

Now the bad news: The average American still consumes 36 to 42 percent of calories from fat. We're making all the right moves, but still eating too much fat. How can this be? Some of it might be due to rebound eating.

I've counseled many women with intentions too good for their own good. They could have started at 30 percent of calories from fat, then gradually decreased as they acclimated. Instead, they decided to go cold turkey to 10 percent or less. They report successful nonfat eating all day long, give up meat, cheese and fried foods. Then at night they eat a whole bag of cookies.

A more gradual descent might work better for these folks. Faulty substitution is another problem.

Some people substitute cheese for red meat as their protein source. Ounce for ounce, they have about the same amount of fat. Others fill in at fast food shops with deep fried fish fillets (18 grams fat) in place of cheeseburgers (13 grams fat) or roast beef sandwiches (10 grams fat). Knowledge is power. Don't guess, get the facts. If you eat at fast food shops, ask for their nutrition information.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

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