& Joannie Dobbs Wednesday,
Quest for convenience
can lead to
Does your family have "convenience syndrome"? These questions may indicate your vulnerability to this condition:
1. Do you consider coffee to be a complete breakfast and then snack on "goodies" others bring to work?
2. Do you frequently grab a bagel or mega-muffin instead of a meal?
3. Do you almost always buy lunch instead of packing one, even when on a tight budget?
4. Do you eat out because you are too tired to shop, cook or clean up?
5. Is your idea of a home-cooked meal one prepared in a single skillet by adding pre-boxed flavor to hamburger or microwaving a prepackaged meal on a disposable plate?
6. Is it too much trouble to use your bread maker because you have to measure the few ingredients?
7. Is your children's concept of making homemade cookies baking frozen dough slices?
8. Is a family meal when the family drives through the fast-food restaurant?
9. Do you know from memory the phone number of your favorite food delivery restaurant but have to look up your sister's phone number?
10. Do you watch the Food TV channel and then eat out? If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you are not alone. However, you may be going down the road of poor nutrition that we term "convenience syndrome."
Without a doubt, it seems all of our lives have gotten busier. And with that one change alone, individuals are looking for more convenient ways to forage and hunt. However, in many cases there are long-term health risks associated with "convenience syndrome."
Food is the fuel that nourishes the body. And like cars, without the proper fuel, the vehicle does not function well or may even be damaged. The nature of "convenience syndrome" alters the type and amount of fuel.
It is becoming increasingly common to see individuals whose main diet consists of bagels, cream cheese and juice or a coffee latte. For some individuals this restricted diet may cause weight loss. For others it may cause weight gain or, even without weight gain, the expansion of those love handles.
"Convenience Syndrome" is like the old phrase "Catch-22." When nutrient requirements are not met, it can cause fatigue. This fatigue decreases the amount of energy you have to eat well and acquire the needed nutrients to stay active and healthy. Therefore your diet becomes more convenient, and the quality of your nutritional status decreases. This in turn causes more fatigue and then more convenience, etc.
Another form of "convenience syndrome" is when someone is so busy fitting exercise in between work that they end up living on sports drinks and energy bars. The nutritional consequences are unpredictable, with a possible mix of nutrient deficiency and excess.
Lucky individuals will recognize the problem before it gets out of hand. And if their children are lucky, "convenience syndrome" will not become their standard way of life.
So, how can you ensure that you are getting the right amount of the best fuel? Well, it takes effort to break bad habits or reverse this syndrome. This may sound old-fashioned, but getting a variety of foods is the first step to ensure that you get enough nutrients without overdosing on supplements or fortified foods. And remember that nutrition is rapidly discovering important food components related to long-term good health. So, eating a variety of foods is the best insurance.
Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S. and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.
are nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences,
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, UH-Manoa.
Dr. Dobbs also works with the University Health Service
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