Extension and Ag Research News


Prairie Fare: Beware of Fad Diet Advice in the New Year

How do you spot a fad diet or exercise device?

By Julie Garden Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist NDSU Extension Service

My husband sometimes educates me by bringing home unusual food-related literature to read. The most recent piece from a newsstand certainly caught my eye.

In an article that included compelling pictures, an eyewitness reported the furry and ferocious Bigfoot’s amazing recent weight loss. The creature apparently dropped from 800 pounds to 650 pounds by eating more berries, getting more physical activity, (including Pilates - a type of exercise), log rolling on a swamp and consequently, wrestling alligators.

Unfortunately, there was not an official diet and exercise plan. I’ll summarize the take-home message from what Bigfoot allegedly did to shed his excess pounds. Bigfoot ate more fruits and vegetables and got more physical activity.

Really, that’s pretty good advice, except for wrestling alligators in swamps. Now, you don’t need to buy the publication. Besides, all the issues probably have been snapped up by now.

With the arrival of 2007, many people resolve to get healthier. New Year’s resolutions often involve weight (losing some) or money (gaining some). The promoters of diet fads usually gain money, but fewer people who buy the fad items lose weight and keep it off.

With nearly two out of three U.S. adults overweight or obese, the dieting industry is booming, with annual sales estimated at $40 billion. Diet and exercise fads abound.

How do you spot a fad diet or exercise device? If a diet promises a quick fix, no effort on your part and/or elimination of entire food groups, it’s probably best ignored. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

You don’t have to lose money to lose fat and gain muscle. Many free nutrition and fitness resources are available to help people get healthier in the New Year. For online information about healthy eating, visit the “MyPyramid Information” section of the NDSU Extension Service Web site at http://www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/food.htm (click on nutrition, then online publications).

Some people prefer formal weight-loss programs. These are some of the questions you should ask, according to the Weight-control Information Network (WIN), an information service of the National Institutes of Health.

  • What does the weight-loss program consist of?
  • Does the program offer one-on-one counseling or group classes?
  • Do you have to purchase special food, drugs or supplements?
  • Does the program help you be more physically active, follow a specific physical activity plan or provide exercise instruction?
  • Does the program teach you to make positive and healthy behavior changes?
  • Is the program sensitive to your lifestyle and cultural needs?
  • What are the staff qualifications?
  • Who supervises the program?
  • Does the product or program carry any risks?
  • Do participants talk with a doctor?
  • How much does the program cost?
  • Are there other costs, such as weekly attendance fees, food and supplement purchases, etc.?

You can find out much more about diet and weight on the WIN Web site at http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/index.htm.

Here’s a fiber-rich, and therefore filling, recipe for a cold winter day. It’s from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Recipe Finder Web site at http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov/.

Lentil Chili

1/2 pound lean ground beef 1 1 /2 c. chopped onion 1 crushed clove garlic 2 c. cooked, drained lentils 1 (29-ounce) can or 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans tomatoes, diced or crushed 1 Tbsp. chili powder 1/2 tsp. ground cumin (optional)

Sort and cook lentils. In a large saucepan, brown the beef over medium-high heat, breaking it into bite-sized pieces. Drain the fat. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add lentils, tomatoes, chili powder and cumin. Cook for about one hour until the flavors are blended. Serve hot and topped with your favorite chili toppings.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 210 calories, 4.5 grams (g) of fat, 28 g of carbohydrate, 25 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin A and 20 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, jgardenr@ndsuext.nodak.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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