I was talking to a family member about nutrition when she expressed an opinion that I hear all the time: “Everyone is following such different diets! It’s just so confusing that I don’t know what to eat anymore!” And isn’t that true! Everyone holds such strong food opinions, and talks with such conviction, that it feels like politics!
This is when I recommend the Food Kumbaya Moment: that place where people who hold very strong positions work to find common ground and come together in unison. That’s professionals AND patients. We can all agree on a few basic nutrition tenants.
There is a reason we need to work together. And that is because the nutrition community has been unable to identify the one ideal meal pattern. Experts have been trying for years to identify the “best” diet that is most effective at helping people lose weight, or achieve cardiovascular health, or treat diabetes. We can’t find that one perfect diet and that may be because there isn’t one perfect diet for everyone.
As diabetes professionals and advocates for healthy eating, we rely on evidence based information. The 2018 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes by the American Diabetes Association has a lot to say on the subject of nutrition. “A variety of eating patterns are acceptable for the management of type 2 diabetes and pre diabetes including Mediterranean, DASH and plant-based diets (1)” This theme is reiterated in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Nutrition Practice Guideline for Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes in Adults. It was concluded that research does not support an ideal percentage of energy from carbohydrate, protein or fat in the eating plan for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes (2).
The most important aspects of meal planning are to find an approach that a person is willing and able to follow, and to achieve an appropriate energy intake. As diabetes educators, advocates for good health and counselors for behavior change, we need to employ motivational interviewing to learn the interests, preferences and preconceived notions of our clients, then work toward helping them create the best plan for them personally.
So, if we aren’t going to debate low carb Vs. low fat, paleo Vs. plant based, we can focus on the common nutrition tenants of all these plans. First, everyone needs to eat more vegetables. The federal government collects nationwide food consumption data, and to put it mildly, American’s are not doing well in the category of eating our vegetables. A whopping 87% of Americans did not meet the minimum recommendation for their sex-age group (average of 2 cups) of vegetables daily (3). We certainly can all agree on this goal. A concerted effort on the part of nutrition professionals to guide and encourage vegetable consumption would have many positive outcomes.
Our second priority, that all diet plans endorse, is the need to reduce the consumption of processed food products. This can be further defined as eating fewer refined sugars and refined grains, and limiting sodium intake.
If we can start with these basic nutrition tenants, of more veggies and less processed food products, we are surely moving in a positive direction. This should keep us all pretty busy for a while. Kumbaya!
- Diabetes Care, Jan 2018; Volume 41, Supplement 1, Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes 2018.
- J Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Oct 2017, Volume 117, Issue 10, p 1637-1658. J. MacLeod et al, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Nutrition Practice Guideline for Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes in Adults.
- National Cancer Institute. Usual dietary intakes: food intakes, US population, 2007–10. Available at http://appliedresearch.cancer.gov/diet/usualintakes/pop/2007-10