Let’s not make THAT mistake again

I was browsing through the nutrition newswire this morning when two items caught my eye–primarly due to their juxtaposition.

The first was in reference to a study done by Brian Wansinck at Cornell University, which found that–surprise, surprise–positive messaging about nutrition (“Eat more vegetables) are more effective at getting people to make positive behavior change than negative instructions (“Eat less candy”).

That was the basic but powerful idea that I explored a while back in this Nutrition Diva episode: Shift Your Focus to Make Dieting Easier.

In and of itself, it wouldn’t have been worth mentioning to you. But the NEXT item in the feed was an article by Ellie Krieger in the Washington Post, Eating Less Meat? Be Careful What you Replace it With.Lots of folks are cutting back on the amount of meat they eat. Indeed, that seemed to be the primary message in this year’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. But as Krieger rightly points out,

“Simply eating less meat is not a solid plan in and of itself. What you decide to pile on your plate instead of that steak, chop or cutlet is equally, if not more, important. If less meat translates to more stuffed-crust pizza or boxed mac and cheese for dinner, you could be doing yourself more harm than good.”

And it occurred to me that we are in danger of making the same mistake we made back in the 70s when the health authorities insisted that we all needed to eat less fat…but said nothing about what we should eat instead.

What happened next is a well-worn story. Millions of Americans obediently switched to low-fat, high sugar foods and heart disease, diabetes, and obesity sky-rocketed.

Let’s not make the same mistake again. Instead of focusing exclusively on the negative message to “Eat less meat,” let’s spend at least as much time talking about what to eat instead. (Krieger’s article is a great place to start.)

And, just to head off the emails from the Cattleman’s Association, let me just add that, although large quantities of red meat on a daily basis are associated with poor health outcomes, people who eat meat once a week or less have the same risk as those who eat none at all.

See also: You don’t have to give up red meat to be healthy

What are your thoughts? Do you eat meat? Is health and nutrition your primary motivation or are other factors, such as environmental or ethical concerns?

If you have cut back on (or cut out) meat, what do you find yourself filling that spot on your plate with?


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