A little smarter, a little healthier…

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Categories: Linked Learning, Obesity prevention

July 22, 2015 — By Tatiana Diacova

Unfortunately, Americans are known as the nation with extremely poor eating habits. We are always being scolded for eating too much fast food, skipping meals and not exercising. Sadly, we can’t even argue with that –  obesity rates across the states are horrifying.

The truth is that we, Americans, are uneducated on healthy eating! We might want to make some changes in our diets, but often, just don’t know where to start and don’t have the time or the means to educate ourselves. So, whenever we hear a new diet-related statement – we readily believe it! Fat-free, gluten-free, low-sodium, high-carbs – what do all of these even mean? We don’t know but blindly follow trends like these in the hopes of getting just a little bit healthier. It seems that the more we learn about nutrition, the more we realize that we know so little about it. Many nutrition-related statements and trends found in the media are short-lived  – there just hasn’t been enough research done to produce any conclusive results.

A recent New York Times article published earlier this month talks about one of those short-lived trends – the trend of going fat-free.  They say it’s now officially outdated!

The article is called “Why is Federal Government Afraid of Fat”. I think I know the answer – not only the federal government but all of us are so afraid of fat because we don’t know what it is and what exactly it does to our bodies! First, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) told us to cut back on fats because they were very detrimental to our health. Now, they are saying that fat might not be all that bad; in fact, there probably should be no upper limit on fat intake at all! That’s just beyond “confusing!”

I, personally, am skeptical with any dietary advice that includes such words as “never” or “no upper limit,” even if the advice comes from the “experts.” I am a big believer in balance and moderation – let’s enjoy the food we like but be smart about it.  And let’s stop using the Mediterranean diet as the universal model for health! While it works for people living in the Mediterranean region, it might not work for Americans. We have completely different lifestyles, food preferences and history of food preparation. Moreover, Americans are people from so many different cultural backgrounds – it’s not realistic for everyone to stop eating what they and their families have been eating for ages and start eating the Mediterranean diet. It’s just not going to happen! We need to be more culturally sensitive. It’s true that the Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats that might improve blood cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease, but we need to do a little bit more work than just informing people about how great it is. We need to figure out how we can bring this great diet, or just some elements of it, to Americans in a way that would actually appeal to our tastes and fit our busy lifestyles.

The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health does huge amounts of work in making sure that our youth are well-educated on topics like nutrition and health. Interning for The L.A. Trust  this summer I had the honor to be a part of the Linked Learning Pilot Program – a program that focuses on preparing high school students for college, careers and life after graduation. I assisted Deborah Ebrahemi (Healthy Eating, Active Living Program Manager) in preparation of the Obesity Prevention module curriculum and was even able to present the content to the students. Aside from providing them with some basic nutrition information, we also  made sure students had enough knowledge to be critical thinkers when encountering nutrition-related statements in the media. So, hopefully, this collective effort will create the next generation of adult Angelenos that is a little smarter, a little healthier and a little more sensitive to cultural diversity in food.

 

tatianaTatiana Diacova is currently a Nutritional Science student at California State University, Los Angeles. Her academic interest includes biochemistry and Medical Nutrition Therapy. This summer Tatiana is working with The L.A. Trust for Children’s Health on creating a Healthy Eating, Active Living Toolkit that will support the LAUSD Wellness Center school sites in their efforts to create a Wellness Campus that provides the needed services to prevent and treat childhood obesity.

 

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