Proper eating still leaves room for a treat

Four out of five Americans recognize the importance of good nutrition. Yet only 39 percent say they're doing all they can to eat a healthy diet, and that number is down from 44 percent in 1991.

This nutrition action "stall" is just one of the findings of the 1993 Survey of American Dietary Habits conducted for the American Dietetic Association and Kraft General Foods by the Wirthlin Group.


Do we judge ourselves too harshly when it comes to evaluating our eating habits?

For instance, you might think that chocolate is a "bad" food and you should never eat it. If you eat some anyway, you'd probably then say you're not doing "all you can" to choose a healthy diet.


In reality, a day full of healthy choices has room in it for a little treat. So you could eat a small chocolate bar and still be doing "all you can" to choose a healthy diet. Yum!

On the other hand, when I review people's food diaries, fruits and vegetables are often sorely lacking. So here's the good news:

Of the 1,000 folks interviewed, 52 percent volunteered that the food they select specifically to achieve a healthy diet is 'u vegetables (up from 40 percent in '91), and 36 percent said fruit (up from 27 percent).

When asked why they don't do more to improve their diets, people say they don't want to give up their favorite foods, they don't have time to monitor their diets and they are confused by conflicting nutrition information.

ADA counters with these tips:

* Leave room for your special foods by choosing from reduced calorie, low fat and low cholesterol choices that taste good. You can eat the foods you like and improve your diet at the same time.

* Use nutrition labels to check out fat, cholesterol, sodium and fiber to see how they fit in your total diet.

* Small changes, like switching to low-fat salad dressing or skim milk, will bring daily fat intake closer to recommendations.


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