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Taking a spin through diet's new world order

By JANET K. KEELER
Published January 19, 2005


I am excited about the new federal dietary guidelines. It is good to know I can still drink rum and eat white rice.

I am thrilled that the PepsiCo "Smart Spot" on Diet Pepsi and Baked! Lay's chips tells me that I am making good choices.

How cozy I feel knowing that the Grocery Manufacturers of America, General Mills, SuperTarget, the South Beach Diet guy, the USA Rice Federation and the Distilled Spirits Council are behind me in my quest to eat more healthfully in 2005. I hope one of them will answer the phone when I need a friend to keep me off the Rocky Road late at night.

Oh, some crabby Cornell University professor is trying to bring me down with her warning of Complex Carbohydrate Intolerance. She says if I eat the whole grains, fruits and vegetables that Dr. Fed says I should, the megadose of fiber will twist my gut like a pretzel. Ugly things could happen.

Isn't she a party pooper?

The doom-and-gloom professor's e-mail came, via her Dallas PR agency, last week on the very day that the updated version of the federal government's dietary guidelines was released. Hers was among a flood of communication from food conglomerates, lobbying groups and folks seeking ink.

In the new dietary world order, they want the media to know that they are still viable members of the food chain.

But are whole-grain Lucky Charms really what nutrition experts have in mind for us?

The guidelines tell us to eat more whole grains, fruits and veggies. Count calories, not carbs or fat grams. Get on that treadmill for 30 minutes a day, more if you need to lose weight, even more if want to keep it off.

Carving out time for exercise in our already busy days will be easier than staving off the spin coming our way.

Meredith Vieira of The View is part of the national promotion for the Smart Spot, a green emblem on PepsiCo products that proclaims "Smart Choices Made Easy." Put your trust in her.

The Grocery Manufacturers of America "share the government's concern about the quantity of saturated fat and trans fats in the average American diet." Good to know that the makers of snack cakes have seen the light.

General Mills "applauds the new guidelines" but was smart enough to change its white-flour cereals to whole-grain products before the announcement. Kellogg beat the feds to the punch by announcing its reduced-sugar cereals last year.

The Distilled Spirits Council toasts the government for advising us to drink in moderation. Funny, we used to call alcohol empty calories.

It is true that many food manufacturers are making more healthful products, but much of that has come because of government and consumer pressure. Producers are voluntarily removing trans fat from baked products. How coincidental. The government will require products with artery-clogging trans fats to say so on the packaging beginning next year. What company wants a cigarette-style warning on its food?

Hey Watch Out: These cookies have sent otherwise healthy rodents into cardiac arrest.

The government has spoken, and it is time for consumers to show resolve. We need to be picky about what we buy and suspicious of claims that big business cares about our bottoms when it is likely more interested in the bottom line.

No amount of advertising, or e-mails, will convince me that a 100-calorie scotch and water is as good for me as an apple.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at 727 893-8586 or krieta@sptimes.com

[Last modified January 18, 2005, 10:37:07]


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