Nutrition News: Diet Discrepancies, Curbing Cravings, Nutrition-Trained Doctors

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Where our diets go wrong

When it comes to the healthfulness of Americans’ diets, something’s not adding up. Even though more than 80 percent of us don’t eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables, many of us overdo it with refined grains and sugar, and 36 percent of us are obese, 75 percent of us claim our diets are healthy, NPR reports, citing a recent national poll it co-conducted.

What gives? Experts tell NPR it could be a matter of portion size — that we’re overeating foods that are healthy when consumed in moderation. Another factor in the discrepancy might be that we’re eating foods — like sugar-loaded granola bars — that we think are healthy, perhaps because they are marketed to us that way, but that really are not so good for us.

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How to curb cravings

Even as you try to eat healthier, cravings for sweets can be hard to withstand — especially because, dietitian Jae Berman points out in the Washington Post, sugar is “everywhere” and in everything from cereals to salad dressings to packaged meats. Still, Berman notes, there are things we can do to overcome our hankerings for sugar. If your craving is due to “nutritional need” (i.e., your body needs the calories), try to eat healthy foods instead, along with a glass of water.

“If you hydrated properly, the cravings might subside,” Berman says. If it’s a matter of “habit,” she suggests, “Consider savory or salty to get your brain and taste buds out of that sweet habit.” Or if the sweet craving is being triggered by emotions, try to do something else that makes you feel better — such as getting some sleep, talking to a friend, going for a walk or listening to some good music. Worth a try!

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Why doctors can help

Can our doctors do more to help us eat well, which can in turn help stave off chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and obesity? The Washington Post notes that there’s a growing movement for doctors to get more nutrition training so that they can use that knowledge to improve health care. One example of this trend: Dr. Timothy Harlan has launched a “culinary medicine” program at the Tulane University School of Medicine, installing a kitchen in which medical students learn about cooking and nutrition so they can pass that information along to their patients. “We’re not trying to turn physicians into dietitians,” Harlan told the Post. “But many people don’t get to see a dietitian as easily as a doctor. So the physician should have some basic nutrition knowledge.” Makes sense.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer.