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04 Jun Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: The Myth of Moderation Pt 1: Do All Foods Really Fit?

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The Myth of Moderation Pt 1: Do All Foods Really Fit?

@Jeff Novick, MS, RD

You know what they say when it comes to what to eat,”everything in moderation.”     Whether it is chocolate, wine, red meat, dessert, etc.  Nothing is bad, in and of itself, as long as we just don’t consume too much of it.

But, how do we would define “too much” and how do we know if we have surpassed this?

Let’s start at the beginning.

Our current concept of “everything in moderation” comes from ancient Greece, where at the temple of Apollo at Delphi there was the inscription, “Meden Agan” or  “Nothing in Excess.”    From this, we got the concept of doing something “in moderation” which means, not doing it excessively.    Therefore, someone who moderates their food consumption may choose to eat food from all food groups, but will limit their intake of those foods that may cause deleterious effects to harmless levels.

So, how are we doing in this area?

The items we know that are causing harm to Americans right now are the excess consumption of added sugars, refined grains, sodium, fat, and saturated fat.

So, how much does the average American consume of these?

Added Sugars – 242% over the recommended upper limit.

Refined Grains – 200% over the recommended upper limit.

Sodium – 229% over the recommended upper limit.

Saturated fats – 158% over the recommended upper limit.

Solid fats – 281% over the recommended upper limit.

Therefore, these are 5 items we can no longer consume “in moderation” as their current level of consumption is far beyond the level we know to cause harm.   The only solution is a dramatic reduction in the amounts we consume of these items.   Then, and only then, perhaps we can again, consume these things in moderation.

However, there is also a flip side to the saying “everything in moderation.”   There are items that we know are very beneficial, that we should be consuming a certain amount of in order to gain their benefit.  These are fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber.

So, how much does the average American consume of these?

Fruits – only 42% of the recommended minimum intake.

Vegetables – only 59% of the recommended minimum intake

Whole Grains – only 15% of the recommended minimum intake.

Fiber – only 40% of the recommended minimum intake.

Therefore, these are also items we can no longer consume in moderation as their current level of consumption is far below the level we know to be beneficial.   The only solution is a dramatic increase in the amounts we consume of these items.   Then, and only then, perhaps we can again, consume these things in moderation.

Here are two charts highlighting the above information

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In addition, over 2/3’s of Americans are currently overweight and over 1/3 are obese. We did not get this way by consuming “all things in moderation.”  We got this way by consuming many things, and many of the wrong things, in excess.  Great excess.  And, the USDA figures in the above graph, bears this out as since 1970, the average American consumes 30% more calories with most of these calories coming from added sugars, solid fats, saturated fats and refined grains.

Even the saying from the American Dietitic Association, “All foods fit,” has been taken out of context. The original saying is not “all foods fit,”  but, “All foods can fit into a healthful diet ‘if’ consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity.”

As we see, Americans’ are not consuming foods in moderation nor are we engaged in regular activity as over 70% of Americans do not even meet the minimum recommendations for activity/exercise.   This is why the current concepts of”everything in moderation” and “all foods fit”  for the average American today is a myth.

Moderation is no longer an option in regard to calories, or in regard to the foods we know can be harmful, or in regard to the foods we know to be beneficial.  We are so far from what constitutes healthy in America, that we have much work to do to get back to where we could once again discuss moderation.  Rationalizing the over consumption of harmful foods, or the minimal consumption of beneficial foods, with a saying that does not apply to our situation, will not help us.

We have to at least double the intake of fruits, vegetables and fiber just to reach the minimum recommendations.  In addition, we have to cut our consumption of added sugars, fat, sat fat and sodium in at least half just to get down to the upper level of the recommended limits.

Moderation will not help accomplish this.

We need a dramatic shift in our understanding of our current situation and the solution we take.

In Health,


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Jeff Novick
Jeff Novick

Jeff Novick, MS, RD, LD, LN is truly a unique dietitian and nutritionist. With over 24 years of experience in nutrition, health, fitness and natural living, he offers expert health advice distilled into powerful, easy-to-understand language on a variety of current topics.Novick’s insightful and humorous approach to nutrition and health has helped thousands worldwide make the transition to healthy living. He holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana State University in nutrition, with a minor in exercise science.Novick serves as Vice President for Executive Health Exams International and lectures at the McDougall Program in Santa Rosa, California and at the Engine 2 Immersion program in Austin, Texas. He is also the Director of Nutrition for the Meals for Health program, which is helping empower low-income families to achieve optimal health.For almost a decade, Novick served as the Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Center in Aventura, Florida, and as Vice President of the Board of the Directors for the National Health Association (NHA). He also served as the Director of Health Education for the NHA and as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Health Sciences for Kaplan University.Novick has taught nutrition classes at Indiana State University, Indiana University Medical School, the University of Miami Medical School and the Florida Academy of Family Physicians. He regularly lectures at medical conferences across the country. While in Indiana, he created and taught the Nutrition Education Initiative, a preventive medicine curriculum for medical doctors, residents and medical students. In recognition of this groundbreaking project, Indiana’s governor awarded Novick the Indiana State Public Health Excellence in Health Science Award and Indiana State University awarded him the Graduate-of-the-Last-Decade Award.He has been interviewed by Newsday, Parade, Men’s Health, Shape, Women’s World and has appeared on Fox News, Discovery Health, the Today Show and other media outlets nationwide. He recently appeared in the documentary Processed People and the movie Fatboy, which won the Best Documentary award at the Fort Lauderdale and Queens Film Festivals.

  • Leah
    Posted at 04:39h, 04 June

    100% Agreed. I just don’t understand how people are so far removed from what fruits and vegetables taste like, that they eat so little of them. Fruits and vegetables taste wonderfully! There’s something for everyone.

    • Brenda Rowe
      Posted at 11:42h, 04 June

      I know why they do not because I was there. When you eat sweet things all the time and things loaded with fat. You crave these things you think you are hungry all the time. You don’t understand what feeling full is all about. Because of the sweets fruit taste sour. Now all fruits and vegetables have a sweet taste to me. If I eat some thing that has fat in it I know right away because my mouth feels coated with fat. I am learning and I am craving more knowledge. I want to be able to explain to people why what they are eating is unhealthy.

    • Jodi
      Posted at 15:50h, 24 June

      I think some people really miss out on the enjoyment of fruit because they are eating tasteless, unripe fruit. Buying fruit from a standard supermarket usually means it is a week or two away from close to being ripe; not to mention that it has been picked so early for transport purposes. Too bad, because properly ripened
      fruit is wonderful!

  • Kyle Plattner
    Posted at 08:57h, 04 June

    Moderation is a futile thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

  • csjohnsrud
    Posted at 11:35h, 04 June

    I was discussing food and nutrition with someone today and she mentioned moderation. I said, “Uh, no. It’s not about moderation because that says the bad food is okay.”

  • Fo Reals Life
    Posted at 11:54h, 04 June

    I love this article. I am always annoyed with people that say “everything in moderation!” which is more of just a way to excuse their behaviors or habits. I guess you can eat a moderate amount of poision but it’s still going to kill you 😉

  • Mom 4 Two
    Posted at 12:02h, 04 June

    I’ve often had conversations with friends and family about eating a healthy diet. But whenever I mention the benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet their response is often the “everything in moderation” excuse. I’m sure fruits, veggies, whole grains etc. don’t come anywhere close to the amount of junk food included in that philosophy.

  • Matt Peck
    Posted at 12:10h, 04 June

    My transition to plant based was difficult through the first month. But, now it has become even more exciting to eat than before. All I eat now is plant based and whole grain. I feel great, lost 50 lbs and at 41 have maintained the same weight I was when I graduated high school. Moderation doesn’t work, especially considering the addictive nature of sugary and/or high fat processed foods.

  • Jane Smith
    Posted at 12:11h, 04 June

    Great article Jeff! I consider the things that I missed without knowing it as my moderation. Like if I’m at a restaurant and ask them to not use oil, but they cook it in a pan that previously had oil…well there’s my moderation. Attempting to be 100% compliant is just easier.

  • Nancy Johnson Standlee
    Posted at 12:23h, 04 June

    I enoyed this article and thought it gives some good points to consider.

  • Carla W.
    Posted at 13:04h, 04 June

    Fantastic article! In a world of extreme excess – excessively low intake of nutritive foods, excessively high intake of highly processed & refined “food-like” products, and excessively sedentary lifestyles- “moderation” is still excessive. I eat a whole foods, plant-based diet. No exceptions, no regret.

  • Ken Leebow
    Posted at 13:34h, 04 June

    It’s such a trite statement – Everything in moderation – that it has no meaning. Great article. Thanks.

  • Brenda Joyce Garner
    Posted at 13:59h, 04 June

    Excellent, useful information, and educational, as usual. Thanks.

  • Chris
    Posted at 14:21h, 04 June

    Dr. Esselstyne’s book How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
    has titled chapter 5 as: Moderation Kills. Enough said!

  • Julie H
    Posted at 14:57h, 04 June

    The more I learn about a plant strong diet the more frustrated and even angry I get at the misinformation and lies we’ve been told for years. Thanks to everyone involved in the plant strong movement for taking the stand and educating us! Life changing for sure.

  • Jessica
    Posted at 18:04h, 04 June

    I loved the article ~ It is amazing how over fed and under nourished most people are in America. We need more fruits & veggies!

  • april
    Posted at 19:00h, 04 June

    Great info. Heard this in chicago at farms to forks. Wish more people in our society would learn the silliness moderation actually is! Keep the grest info coming.

  • Kay
    Posted at 19:08h, 04 June

    Thanks Jeff for your simple explanation! Makes perfect sense to me!

  • C_lobon
    Posted at 20:06h, 04 June

    moderation…..not so quite moderate these days. Especially with these numbers Jeff has just revealed to us. Jeff, you are the man! Great info, as always.

  • Lainey Frances
    Posted at 21:39h, 04 June

    It was a great inspiration to hear you speak at “Farms to Forks” in Chicago! SO much great information! I’ve been passing it along to many others!

  • Michael
    Posted at 23:32h, 04 June

    Great information, as always. Thanks, Jeff!

  • Melody
    Posted at 23:32h, 04 June

    A very interesting discussion, especially when there are so many who believe moderation should be enough. Thanks, Jeff

  • Doris
    Posted at 06:04h, 05 June

    I loved this article. Just like a person who has or had a dependency on alcohol or drugs, there is no such thing as moderation. I am learning that I cannot have just a little big of sugar or just one cookie…it wakens a monster inside of me and I keep eating. I have found a new love of fruit. I never knew that I liked turnip greens. And I can cook them without bacon or any kind of fat and they are delicious. And I love quinoa in my salads.

    • Celia
      Posted at 10:42h, 12 July

      Giving up meat and dairy (ok, I often dream of a soft Brie) has not been hard. Eating more fruit and veggies has not been hard. But skipping the junk food has been HARD. Chips, fries, cookies, candy, beer. Oreos are vegan, right? Problem is, I will eat half the package in one night, and the other half the next night. Until my sister did me a “favor.” We went to her cabin for a weekend, and she brought a package of Oreos since she knew I liked them. To be “funny,” she wrote on the package with a sharpie, “Now with Meat!” I didn’t touch one of them, and I haven’t since.

  • Kathy Stone Carney
    Posted at 08:26h, 05 June

    This is awesome… and sadly, so true. Too many think that if they just don’t eat as much trash that they will be OK and that they are eating healthy. Flame retardant is still flame retardant regardless of the amount you ingest…

  • jom
    Posted at 09:15h, 05 June

    Thanks so much, Jeff. Thanks, too, for your videos. I bought two at the Chicago Farms2Forks event and I watched them with my parents last weekend, and they’re already making small changes. My dad has two new mantras: “Where’s the bulk?” and “No oil!” They may not be completely plant strong yet, but I’m getting them there. 🙂

  • Bob
    Posted at 15:23h, 05 June

    While not surprising based on the health issues facing the developed world, I still find it amazing to see just unbalanced we are when it comes to the minimum health recommendations. Thanks for the information.

  • Melissa
    Posted at 17:56h, 05 June

    Thanks for being among those leading the charge on the cultural shift necessary for human health. Thanks, too, for being so willing to educate and support the rest of us in the process.

  • Christa
    Posted at 18:10h, 05 June

    Thanks for a thought provoking article Jeff.
    Yesterday I just watched my newest video – one of your’s – From Oil To Nuts – it was great

  • Loretta Smith
    Posted at 17:51h, 09 July

    Love this! and LOVE Fast Food Burgers and Fries 🙂 We love eating right and love that you’re out there encouraging people to eat better!!! Sharing!!!

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