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Avoiding Unhealthy

Avoiding UnhealthyA new book by a leading Tufts nutrition expert says many Americans are dieting on the wrong foods.

Boston [08.01.01] Studies now show half of all Americans are overweight and one in five is obese -- twice as many as in 1960. Despite explosive growth in the "diet" industry, Americans are not getting thinner or healthier. The problem, says a leading Tufts nutrition expert, is that many Americans are being raised on a diet of mixed messages and unhealthy "health foods."

"Women, I believe, are very confused about what they should be eating, what they shouldn't be eating," Tufts' Miriam Nelson said in an interview on the Today Show. "They've been told to eat grains, then don't eat grains. Eat lots of protein, don't eat lots of protein."

According to The Boston Globe, Nelson says Americans "get lousy nutrition advice from many quarters."

Whether to eat carbohydrates is a good example, Nelson said.

In her new book "Strong Women Eat Well," Nelson says carbohydrates should provide 55-60 percent of the total calories in an average diet. "The reality is that we're eating many more carbohydrates than we used to," Nelson told the Today Show's national audience. "The problem is that the quality of those carbohydrates are not what they used to be."

According to the Tufts nutrition expert, people are replacing the whole grains in their diets with foods with much more processed ingredients like pretzels and bagels.

"[Nelson says] Americans who load up on refined carbohydrates, including supposedly healthful low-fat cookies, which are actually high in calories, have been getting steadily fatter," reported the Globe.

In fact, many "low-fat" and "non-fat" foods may actually be helping consumers put on the pounds.

"Fat has been vilified for so long," Nelson told the Today Show's Ann Curry. "In fact, many of these snacks that are fat-free have just as many calories as those foods that didn't have the fat taken out of them."

And these "low-fat" foods are extremely popular.

The choices in supermarkets have swelled considerably, and now exceed 40,000 items -- up from just 2,000 in the 1950s, Nelson said. Most of the new products are "processed foods, prepared meals, sodas, snack bars, and refined cereals," she told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The key to a healthy diet, Nelson says, is a wide selection of natural foods.

"Eat fruits and vegetables -- plenty of them -- whole grains, and make sure that when you look down on that plate, there's a high protein food as well," she told the Today Show.

Some sweets may be unavoidable, but they should not be the only option.

According to the Press, Nelson and her family "are big on ice cream and homemade cookies, but there are cut-up vegetables in the refrigerator and a bowl of fruit on the counter."

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