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Note Book

Fall 2005 • Volume 11, Issue 4

Food, glorious food: three faculty members of the department of family and consumer sciences answered our questions:

What do you think of todayís diet trends, and what do you consider a balanced diet?

Dr. Nina CollinsDr. Nina Collins
C.C. Wheeler professor and
chair of family and consumer sciences

Balance is the key to a healthy lifestyle. Any diet over-emphasizing one food over another is not a wise diet. In early spring, the United States Department of Agriculture began promoting an improved Web site for consumers who wish to take self-responsibility and monitor their eating habits, as well as choose more nutrient-dense foods. Visit for help in choosing the types of foods and the amounts of food that are right for you depending on your age, gender, and activity level. You can assess your food intake and physical activity to learn how to get the most out of your calories. In effect, this Web site is very useful for consumers who also embrace “balance” in their lives.

Dr. Jeannette DavidsonDr. Jeannette Davidson
professor and director,
didactic program in dietetics

The Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, the Cookie, and the Zone diet all promise rapid weight loss, weight loss tips, magical figures, and perfect health! There is always the newest fad on the market. Confusion often leads to disenchantment with healthy choices. Why do people fall for these fad diets? Americans are heavier and more sedentary than ever. With today’s busy lifestyles, finding time for regular exercise and to prepare healthy meals is difficult, even though most Americans realize that being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle are linked to serious health conditions. The results are clear to see in the sharp increase in conditions such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, even in school children.

What advice do we as nutritionists and dietitians have for the public? Start a personal plan for fitness and nutrition for weight loss/maintenance. Be flexible. Base a nutrition plan on eating all food in moderation, achieving balance between types of food, and definitely not omitting any food or food groups such as carbohydrates, protein, or fat. Include as much variety as possible. Pay attention to what you eat, reduce portion sizes by 25 percent, read food labels for calories, not fat. Increase the amounts of whole grain bread and cereal, fruits and vegetables, and go slow on fried food, candy, desserts, and fruit juice or soda. Start your day with breakfast and never skip a meal!

Erin DevlinErin Devlin
assistant professor of family and consumer
sciences, community health education specialist

Chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease have been linked to poor diet and lack of exercise. When it comes to nutrition, gathering and reading quality information is critical to understanding what foods to eat and in what quantities to eat them. Unfortunately, with the recent flood of popular diet books, who has the time to pour over every word written by every author? In addition, figuring out exactly what a balanced diet is from these sources can be tricky since many of these books offer conflicting advice. The best way to develop a plan for a healthy diet is to learn about the food groups using the Food Guide Pyramid, become aware of and keep updated with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and integrate the concepts of balance, moderation, and variety into each meal every day. For more information visit

Balance, moderation, and variety are the keys to healthy diets and menu plans. Eating a balanced diet implies that food guidelines set for each food group are followed and that no one category overwhelms food choices for the meal or day. Moderation consists of not overeating, consuming adequate but not large or extra-large food portions, and eating until comfortably full without feeling stuffed or bloated. Variety assumes that foods are consumed from all food groups and that different foods within a group are eaten as well. For example, a person who was certain to consume several different fruits, vegetables, and types of bread over a week’s time would be incorporating the concept of variety into the diet.

Learning the Food Guide Pyramid and taking the time to read and understand the dietary guidelines might seem like a lot of work just for a healthy diet, but with this new knowledge, the concepts of balance, moderation, and variety can be used in ways that will not only lead to better health, but a more interesting diet plan as well.

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