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Making informed choices on healthy eating

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26 October, 2012

Levels of obesity in the UK are rising at alarming rates in all age groups, and its knock-on effects will be seen in terms of ill health for the individuals concerned and costs to health and social care providers. High fat and sugar intakes are also contributing to rising incidence of other long-term conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

As the health professionals with the most patient contact, nurses in all settings are justifiably encouraged to offer healthy eating advice. But much of this advice is really only relevant to those who only ever buy and cook fresh ingredients. Processed foods and ready meals often sound healthy, but all too often when you read the label they are anything but - and in many cases making sense of the label requires a PhD in food science.

Like most people, even if I recognised all the obscure ingredients, I don’t have the time to read them. And those of us with failing eyesight can’t see the tiny print to check the calorie counts and percentages of recommended daily allowance.

Call me a cynic, but the only reason I can see for supermarkets and food manufacturers having dragged their feet on this issue is that they don’t want people to know what they are eating.

Of course a simple visual system can’t include all ingredients, but it can give shoppers information on the key dietary issues such as fat, sugar and salt content, and will make it far easier to offer clear and pragmatic advice on food selection. Nurses are ideally placed to offer health promotion advice, but if it is to be effective it needs to be achievable. Hopefully the new labelling system will give them a helping hand rather than acting as a barrier to shoppers making informed choices on healthy eating.

Readers' comments (10)

  • "Traffic lights" will make no difference !

    "Nurses are ideally placed to offer health promotion advice"

    This may well be true but do overweight Nurses have any credibility ?

    My BMI is 22.4 what is yours ?





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  • Michael Whitehead

    Interesting comment, Jenny. It is a good point as you may ask, how can we promote healthy lifestyles if we are not practicing it ourselves? Then again, some nurses who are obese are so because of medical reasons. It's like a nurse criticising a patient for smoking and then returning to ward after break smelling of cigarettes!

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  • Michael Whitehead

    As I said, some nurses cannot help if they are overweight, so they may face added pressures on promoting health to their patients.

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  • I well remember an "old school" physician who having listened patiently to a lady explaining that her obesity was "because of her glands" replying " It is not your glands Madam, your fat all comes off a plate"

    Is an obese Nurse fit to practise ?

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  • Jenny jones
    Never mind fit for practice, are they fit enough to climb the stairs?
    As for BMI, what a useless piece of kit. Why not measure a persons IQ by measuring the circumference of their cranium? Because it don't work like that.
    My BMI is 32 because I am a short arsed Rugby player who can bench-press 200lbs, run the hundred metres in 13 seconds and do a mile in about 7 minutes. Just because you have a BMI in the 20's doesn't mean you are remotely healthy, just that you have, statistically speaking, ideal weight for your height.
    Perhaps the reason why a lot of nurses are a bit chubby is because their circadian rhythms are destroyed by working practices, and they eat a lot of choccies. After a 12 hour shift with no break, getting home at 10pm to then eat and go to bed immediately afterwards so you can get up at 6am to go back to work doesn't really leave a great deal of time to burn off those calories.

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  • Jenny Jones
    Also, I take it that your 'old school physician' wasn't an endocrinologist then, just a pompous git? If he's still kicking around, perhaps he ( and you) should read up on the following glands- pituitary, thymus, thyroid, adrenal and see if people with disorders of these have difficulty attaining a perfect BMI. He ( and you) may be surprised.

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  • redpaddy12

    I am always willing to learn ----- please list for me the common causes of obesity --- You may leave off the list gluttony and the circadian rhythms which you assure me, are destroyed by scoffing chocolate !
    Me thinks the fat person protests to much and there are to many fat nurses !

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  • Jenny Jones
    Common causes? Education, social status, wealth. Theres three for a start. My BMI is large because I am short and rather muscular. If you know anything about sport, work out Peter Crouch's BMI!

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  • Jenny Jones
    I didn't say circadian rhythms are destroyed by chocolates, there is a comma and an 'and' in there!

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  • tinkerbell

    just done my BMI, came out as 24.8 but there's nothing of me apparently as my work mates tell me and 'you eat like an horse'. Is there such a thing as 'heavy bones?'. Never did get a definitive answer on that one.

    But with a resting pulse of usually 100 my unit manager did tell me that i should be on a cardiac unit. So although i may have a so called healthy BMI i don't think my heart will last the course with all its non stop thumping about.

    Where are all these obese nurses finding the time to eat anything substantial anyway?

    I did have a check up once by what looked like an anorexic nurse who told me i was overweight, well compared to her i most definitely was.

    So long as we are all pulling our weight, pardon the pun, what does it matter? Obese nurses know they are overweight, let's not rub their noses in it.

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