So often nutrition is over complicated, making it difficult to know what to believe. The truth is, healthy eating is simple. It only appears complicated because there is SO much conflicting information on diets, weight loss, calories, disease and there are too many people claiming to be “nutrition experts”. It’s no wonder it can be very confusing and easy to get swept up in the latest trends and fads that promise amazing results.
We want to simplify nutrition for you by bringing it back to basics. The biggest issue when it comes to nutrition is that most of us have not yet mastered the basics of a healthy diet. Most Aussies (93%) are still not meeting their fruit and vegetable requirements. Get the backbone right and the rest will fall into place. There is no point worrying about powders, supplements and specific vitamins if you have not yet got the basics down pat.
Here’s Your Simple (Science-Based) Guide To Eating Healthy:
Drop the Diet and Choose a Lifestyle
Diets do not work. In the long-term you usually end up where you started – or possibly worse off. This is because evolution has created a body that is always anticipating future famine. When you reduce your calorie intake drastically (on a strict diet) there are physiological changes that take place in your body to conserve the energy (such a changes in hormone production and metabolism). Hence the cycle goes around and around. This is why the weight loss industry is worth billions of dollars. Most “diets” are neither easy nor enjoyable to follow, and hence you might be able to do it for 8, 12, 16 weeks – but eventually you’ll throw your hands up and say “screw it!”.
Anything you come across where you think you’d only be able to follow it for a limited amount of time – ditch it! You are much better off adopting a flexible, long-term lifestyle approach. Healthy eating is not ‘all-or-nothing’, it is about building simple habits that can be maintained. This way there is no ‘falling off the wagon’ as it is merely a lifestyle.
Eat wholefoods most of the time
Whole foods should comprise at least 80 – 90% of your food intake. Luckily, there are so many beautiful, fresh and delicious wholefoods you can choose from to keep your diet exciting.
Enjoy these foods some of the time
No food should be labelled as ‘off-limits, bad, evil, toxic, dirty, guilty’. There is a place in the diet for ALL foods, it’s just about eating them in the right proportions and only occasionally. Less healthy foods that do not contribute much nutrition and tend to be rich in calories (and sugar, fat and/or salt) should be limited. These foods should comprise less than 20% of your food intake (ideally less than 10%). Remember that eating these foods occasionally and in small amounts are not going to cause you to miraculously gain weight. We all have foods like this that we absolutely love and that bring a lot of joy to our lives. Rather than completely restricting these foods or treating them as “forbidden”, allow yourself to enjoy them every now and again (whether that’s a couple of pieces of chocolate after dinner or a burger and chips every now and again on the weekend). We only have so much willpower and trying to eliminate foods you enjoy can ultimately backfire.
Enjoy it and be consistent
The reasons most “diets” fail is because not many people enjoy the ride! Yes, dropping a few kilos quickly might seem desirable, but do you really want to live by a whole heap of rules and restrictions for the rest of your life?
It is so important to enjoy the “diet/lifestyle” you choose to adopt. People often have the notion that healthy eating is bland and boring, however, this is far from true! As you saw in the list of wholefoods above, there are so many delicious and flavoursome foods you can include to keep your meals fresh and interesting.
Remember that healthy eating is about consistency, not perfection. Get the basics right and the rest will fall into place. It’s a lot harder to have to keep getting back on track than it is to just stay on track.
Any questions for our dietitians? Comment below!