March is National Nutrition Month, and I’ve got a great film suggestion to help you celebrate! Fed Up is a fantastic documentary taking a closer look at childhood obesity and the role of government and the food industry. “Calories in, calories out” is the oft quoted dietary advice for losing weight, but this film challenges that premise with great visuals for how the calories we eat affect our bodies. Despite rising rates of overweight and obesity, we still have a tendency of blaming individuals for their weight, but as childhood obesity becomes more and more prevalent, we need to take a look at the big picture and focus on how to improve public health.
Fed Up features several children as they struggle with being obese, and follows their journeys through school lunches, various ways they attempt to lose weight, and the role of the food industry and government that inhibits real change. With food industries funding nutritional research, and government subsidies aiding the production of processed foods, while at the same time trying to convince the public that we just need to move more to work off those calories. Yet without real food it’s a losing battle.
This was a perfect reminder for why I’m studying to become a dietitian, because it’s so hard to get clear advice on how to lose weight and eat healthy. There’s definitely a lot that needs to be done to improve our public health systems. But here are some of the things we can each do for ourselves to help improve our diets:
Eat more vegetables — make a guess at what you’re currently eating each day, then try to add one extra serving a day… That’s one cup of vegetables more. If you already manage to eat 10 servings a day, you can stop there. Track it on your calendar so you have some accountability.
Cook for yourself — this is probably the hardest to fit in with busy schedules, and low energy levels, but it’s also probably going to have the greatest impact. If you’re cooking at home you control the ingredients, it’s easier to add those extra vegetables in, and it’s probably going to be cheaper. It’s not all or nothing, just start small, add one new recipe a week and keep it simple.
Avoid the TV — enjoy your home-cooked meal without the TV on. Take the time to appreciate the effort you went through to get a good meal, and don’t get sucked into mindlessly eating in front of the TV.
Avoid processed foods — ok, this one is hard too. But processed foods are going to be where all those hidden sugars are. Don’t be fooled by the halo effect, all those buzzwords are just tricks… “natural” “no sugar added” “fat-free”…they’re mostly just there to hide the fact that it’s frankenfood.
Snack wisely — Obviously snacks need to be convenient, so plan ahead and stick with easy to make/eat ideas: bananas, hard boiled eggs, popcorn, apples, nuts, etc. The best snacks will have a combination of healthy carbohydrates, fats and/or protein to keep you satiated.
Let me know if you’ve watched Fed Up, what you thought, and if it inspired any dietary changes in your own life!