The top three leading causes of death and morbidity in the United States are diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, three diseases that could be virtually eliminated if people ate the recommended two to three cups a day of fruits and vegetables.
Barbara Ruhs didn’t originally set out to help change the way we eat and think about nutrition. She grew up on cookies and milk like many of us! As an avid athlete and tennis player, Barbara spent a lot of time around other athletes whose focus on what they were eating was borderline obsessive. Observing these dysfunctional, disordered eating patterns led her to her phenomenal career today studying nutrition and helping improve the narrative we have around healthy eating.
At the start of her career, Barbara worked with the Massachusetts Department of Education on making meals compliant with nutritional standards and the Healthy School Meal Initiative that started in the late 90’s. She worked with 1800 public schools and 350 food service directors in Massachusetts to provide children first, with something to eat, and then focusing on making that meal compliant with nutrition standards.
“How do you communicate something so that it’s a message that people can grab onto?” – Barbara Ruhs (13:15-13:21)
The statistics today of children going hungry are horrifying. Every one in four children (about 18 million) don’t know where they will get their next meal. This is why school meals were started by Truman in 1946, to help fill the gap of missed meals, make sure the future workforce was filled with nutrition, and help farmers have a place to put their products.
Barbara’s work has led her into working as a private nutritionist for college athletes where she also witnessed an unhealthy conversation around food and borderline obsession with what they ate. so she decided her best place to create an impact was working in the food industry.
Not surprising, considering most of our conversations about health revolve around weight. Even as a nutritionist, Barbara says when she went to the doctor recently and was asked about her weight, it was triggering. Why not change our language to one that’s more positive and focused on helping people make better, healthier food choices?
We know the importance of healthy eating with children and seeing where the proper narrative is important with athletes and adults, so let’s take it one step further.
“The top three leading causes of death and morbidity, so things related to these chronic diseases, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, could virtually be eliminated if people ate the recommended two to three cups of fruits and vegetables per day.”
But instead of talking to patients about curing disease with eating fruits and vegetables, most practitioners head straight to the weight loss conversation, one that is discouraging and unapproachable for many people. Considering we spend three trillion dollars on healthcare in the United States, this could be hugely transformative for our economy and of course the health of our population.
For those that complain about how much more expensive buying fresh fruits and vegetables is, the cost difference between eating healthy and doctor’s appointments, surgeries and pharmaceutical meds is vastly different. Although COVID-19 hasn’t been an experience anyone has wished for, it’s causing people to rethink how they spend their money: do I keep choosing expensive medication or focus on eating healthy instead?
You may be wondering how retail nutritionists and dieticians are helping change the way we communicate to our society about food and healthy eating. Barbara, for one, is working on helping make the decision-making process to healthy eating virtually automatic. Supermarkets and corporate grocers are now offering telehealth sessions with their dieticians as a free service. If we all made these choices automatic, healthy eating would even need to be a conversation.
What are Barbara’s top actionable tips for healthy eating? Actually enjoying your food and being mindful while eating, slowing down to truly taste the flavors and making eating a fun experience. Another great tip is to fill half your plate with whole fruits and vegetables and use the other half to fill with your healthy protein and grains.
How can you make half of your plate healthy each and every day?
How to get involved
- Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
- Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.
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Previous episodes you may enjoy
- Episode 110: Creating Produce Supply Chain Success with Chad Ogden, Director of Transportation for Sunrise Logistics
- Episode 109: Creating a Gluten Free Diet for the Whole Family with Jennifer Wiese, Founder of BeeFree
- Episode 108: Reducing Food Waste With Sustainable Tech with Patrick Cortes, Sr. Director of Business Development at Mission Produce and Aidan Mouat, CEO of Hazel Technologies
- Episode 107: Defeating Hunger Around The Globe with Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization
- Episode 106: Bringing Transparency To The Food Industry with Robyn O’Brien, Co-Founder of rePlant Capital