In their February 2013 journal, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics took the position supporting the total diet approach, which is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Total diet is defined as “the combination of foods and beverages that provide energy and nutrients and constitute an individual’s complete dietary intake, on average, over time.”
The guidelines emphasize that all foods can be included, in appropriate amounts, in a healthy diet. Yes, this includes carbohydrates, fats, cupcakes, and even ice cream. It is important, however, to understand that although all foods can fit, the bulk of the diet should be largely comprised of nutrient rich foods necessary to meet energy and nutrient requirements (for your requirements, visit www.choosemyplate.gov).
The total diet approach vehemently avoids labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” This tends to create a sense of black and white thinking concerning healthy eating leading to an emphasis placed on individual foods and/or nutrients. Isolating nutrients from their respective foods leads to confusion and frustration.
Researchers have not verified a “magic bullet” for better health, but there is evidence supporting the importance of variety. Eggs are touted as having one of the highest quality proteins, but they lack other nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants found in whole grains. Dairy is a great source of calcium and potassium, but doesn’t contain the Omega-3 fats you’d find in seafood or walnuts. The total diet approach encourages balance such that all nutrients can be obtained in sufficient quantities.
Understand, however, that the total diet approach is not a ticket to eat less healthful foods without reservation. Although all foods can fit, nutrient rich foods should be the foundation of your diet. Nutrient rich foods are those like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy. Nutrient poor foods (i.e. foods high in saturated fat or trans fat, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages) should be enjoyed in small portions or suggested serving sizes and remain within the recommendations.
Food is an important part of culture and tradition. Removing certain foods or food groups from your life can create a sense of loss and deprivation. The goal is to create an overall eating pattern, which includes your favorite foods that can be sustained over a lifetime. So you can have your cake and eat it too, but be sure the treats remain a treat, and not a staple.
This fall several County Extension office are offering a Free, “Live Healthy, Live Well” Fall Kick Off The Pounds Wellness Challenge .This email challenge can help to improve your overall health and well-being and help you with the total diet approach .This on-line challenge is designed to help participants get fit by encouraging regular exercise, nutrition, and wellness tips. Participants will receive weekly e-communications via blogs, Facebook, and email with tips and recipes to help them get fit. There will be weekly drawings for prizes to encourage wellness- all participants are eligible to win. Interested in participating in this on-line challenge? Look for sign up information coming in future blogs.
Written By: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, FCS, Wood County and Ryan Leone, Program, Program Assistant, Wood County with IGNITE: Sparking Youth to Create Healthy Communities Project.
Reviewed by: Dan Remley, Assistant Professor, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness
Sources: “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics February (2013): 307-17. Print.