Meet Dr. Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition and pediatrics at University of Vermont. Dr. Johnson has a Ph.D. in nutrition, is a registered dietician, and a fellow of the American Heart Association.
During her dietetic internship, Dr. Johnson found her niche and fell in love with pediatric nutrition. “I am passionate about working with children and their families because you can make a lifelong impact on their health and well-being,” said Dr. Johnson.
This week, as part of the September #LifeIsWhy Family Health Challenge, the Challenge is focused on helping families make healthier drink choices and decreasing sugary drink consumption. “One thing we know from research in children is that repeated exposure to a food leads to a preference for that food. It can take 12-15 exposures to a new food for a child to learn to like the food. If children are exposed to sugary drinks all of the time, they will develop a preference for those,” said Dr. Johnson. “One way to encourage healthier drink consumption is role modeling for children, and drinking healthy drinks at meals, in between meals, and making them the go-to beverage.”
Dr. Johnson said that as our nation focuses on increased access to healthy drinks at corner stores and grocery stores one of the most valuable things we need to do is to make sure that the “healthy drink is the easy choice. These need to be accessible.” One way Dr. Johnson spoke to community change was on the issue of sugary drink taxes, and how that price differential can level the playing field. “In Vermont, we have been supporting a sugary tax bill, and we have recommended that some of those funds be used to subsidize the cost of healthy fruits and vegetables for low income Vermonters.”
“I think moving forward, we will see the day when sugary drinks are not available at all in schools. We are getting there, and it is already a very different climate than it was ten years ago. My vision for our nation is that we will promote healthy foods and beverages across school grounds and at our places of work,” said Dr. Johnson.
“One thing we have seen in the past, and I think we will see it again with sugary drinks, is that children are opinion leaders within their own families. We saw this with the recycling effort. The younger generation pushed recycling within their families because they were educated about the importance to our environment,” said Dr. Johnson. “I hope that we will see that again with sugary drinks as children learn more about the harmful effects of them, and as their schools continue to carry fewer sugary drinks, hopefully kids will push to have healthier drinks and food at home as well.”
This week, Dr. Johnson joined the American Heart Association as moderator of a Twitter Chat about healthy drinks as part of the #LifeIsWhy September Family Health Challenge. “I think that we will reach a day where we will see a culture change and that sugary drinks will not be consumed at the levels that they have been consumed in the past,” said Dr. Johnson.
Join the Twitter Chat next Wednesday to learn more about sodium with Dr. Cheryl Anderson.