Monday, 19 March 2012

Top 3 diet pitfalls

As a dietitian, I have seen many otherwise healthy diets fall short due to commonly made mistakes.  It can be easy to fall into a diet pitfall.  Even the most well informed dieters can make these blunders. Avoiding these common errors may help you build a healthier diet.

Mistake #1: Not eating breakfast
Why eat breakfast?  Breakfast eaters are more likely to be a healthy weight, make healthier food choices throughout the day, meet their needs for essential nutrients, have improved performance and improved concentration and have more energy to make it through the day.  In spite of all of these benefits enjoyed by breakfast eaters, nearly one quarter of Australians skip breakfast.
Breakfast is literally breaking the fast from the evening before.  By taking the body out of fasting mode, the metabolism is fired up and the body is fuelled for the day ahead.   Eating breakfast may also help you avoid overeating at later meals and may help ease the urge to grab a high calorie or high fat snack when the inevitable food craving hits.
A healthy breakfast may include high-fibre, whole grain cereals or breads, fruit, low-fat yoghurts or lean protein choices, like egg whites and low-fat cheese.  A dietitian is able to suggest healthy breakfast choices for you that fit into your diet, lifestyle and needs.

Mistake #2: Too much of a good thing is not always a good thing
Healthy fats have received plenty of positive publicity, and rightfully so.  Mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, like the fat found in olive oil, fatty fish, almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and avocados may help lower triglycerides, increase HDL cholesterol, reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke, and reduce inflammation.
Including these fats in the diet is recommended, in small quantities.  In excess, these fats may add unnecessary kilojoules.  Fat is energy-dense and has more than double the calories per gram of protein and carbohydrates. 
The best way to enjoy these fats is in moderation and by using them in place of saturated fats, like the fat found in butter, most land animals and full cream dairy products.
A dietitian is able to assess your diet for excess kilojoules from fat and may be able to suggest appropriate serving sizes of healthy fats.

Mistake #3: The health halo
Have you been fooled by the health halo, or the false impression that a food is healthy? Many foods now advertise specific benefits on the food label, like Low GI, organic, The Heart Tick symbol, low fat or low cholesterol.  These symbols or statements may give the impression that the food contained within is healthy and suitable for regular consumption.
Unfortunately that is not always the case.  A low fat food may be high in sugar.  Or a low GI food may be high in fat.  An organic food may have been grown in an environmentally sustainable manner but may not be a healthy food choice.  Foods meeting the Heart Tick criteria may have less sodium and less saturated fat than other similar foods, but may not be the healthiest choice.
Use these symbols or labels as a guide when buying foods.  But remember, the best source of information about a product is the nutrition information panel, or the label on the back of the package.  A dietitian will be able to educate you on how to read and interpret nutrition information panels and how to select the best foods.
When buying food, the best choices are often the foods that do not come packaged or are minimally processed.  Make foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat and poultry, whole grains and cereals, and low fat dairy products the foundation of your healthy diet.
A dietitian can play an important role in guiding you towards healthy food choices and finding the right balance.  An Accredited Practising Dietitian may provide you with the knowledge and guidance to build a healthy diet and avoid common diet mistakes.

Author: Kate Deppeler APD

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