Are Your Nutrition Priorities in the Right Order?

I’ve been giving a lot of interviews surrounding the launch of my book this month and reviewers seem fascinated by the subtitle: What to Eat, What to Avoid, and What to Stop Worrying About.

As I wrote in the introduction to the book, “that last category may be the most important of all…In addition to helping you make the best choices at the grocery store and navigate the many decisions you make throughout the day, my ultimate goal is to help you prioritize the things that will make the biggest difference in your health.”

I can’t think of a better illustration for this than the e-mail I received this morning: 

The writer is a 31-year old with Type 2 diabetes and some other very serious health issues due to a congenital heart defect. She is currently awaiting a heart transplant.

“I have changed my diet and watch everything I eat closely. I do not drink soft drinks and avoid artificial sweeteners and flavors… I have started brewing decaffeinated tea and using 1/2 cup of sugar per pitcher of tea. I am drinking anywhere from 40 to 80 ounces of this tea a day. Is this hurting me in any way and am I still getting enough water?…I am trying to eat and drink as much organic and natural as possible. “

So, what nutritional priorities are implied here?

1. Don’t drink soft drinks.

2. Avoid artificial sweeteners.

3. Avoid artificial flavorings.

4. Avoid caffeine.

5. Drink enough water.

6. Eat as much organic and natural as possible.

All valid choices. And yet my friend, who is trying very hard to watch everything she eats, is apparently adding  somewhere between 100 and 200g of added sugar to her organic, all-natural, decaffeinated tea every day and wondering whether that might be too much.

I don’t share this story in order to put this reader down–but to illustrate how easy it is to get caught up in things that might not matter nearly as much as the really important things we’re overlooking.  As I wrote to her privately,  I think that reducing her intake of added sugar (which is 4 to 8 times higher than recommended) is probably more important than any of the other the 6 things she mentioned. Probably more important than all of them combined. But this cautionary tale is really a thought question for all of us–because we all have our own blind spots.

What are your nutrition blind spots?

When choosing what to eat, are you prioritizing the things that make the biggest difference in your health? Or are you overly focused on details that are less important in the big picture?

  • Are you so worried about eating only organic produce that you eat fewer vegetables? The benefits of a diet rich in fresh vegetables far outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.
  • Do you diligently avoid products made with high fructose corn syrup but fail to limit your intake of “natural” sweeteners? The amount of concentrated sweeteners in your diet has much more profound impact on your health than whether they are natural or not.
  • Do you always choose whole grain breads, cereals and pasta but fail to observe reasonable portion sizes? Portion size has a bigger impact on blood sugar than whether a grain product is whole or refined.

Can you think of other ways that people miss the nutrition forest for the trees? Post them here.  And for help getting your nutrition priorities in order, check out Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid, and What to Stop Worrying About!

11 thoughts on “Are Your Nutrition Priorities in the Right Order?

  1. Great posting Monica. Some time back you helped me to see the “nutrition forest” when you answered my question regarding the high percentage of sugar calories and fructose levels in so many vegetables (per I was trying to weigh the harm to my insulin sensitivity from the fructose in these veggies, against the seemingly less harmful starches in (higher GI) foods like potatoes and rice.
    You wisely pointed out that I was focusing only on the fructose percentage “trees” rather than the more important glycemic load (the absolute quantity of carbs and sugars) which is still relatively modest in these veggies.
    You have a wonderful gift of helping us put all the research into a proper context and perspective. Thanks.

  2. So you’re saying that eating 1 peanut butter sandwich on white bread is better nutritionally than eating 2 on whole wheat bread? I find that hard to believe.

  3. Why exactly are artificial sweeteners not good? By all account, they should be great. I mean, they sweeten things up with no calories.

    what am i missing here?

      1. so, aside from different taste (not a problem to me) and unconfirmed effect on increased appetite (also not a problem), they are ok? 🙂

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