We really can’t be bothered anymore.
Quit sugar. Go gluten-free. Banish carbs. Eat organic. Shun dairy. Only eat raw. Stock up on superfoods. Have plenty of fibre. Give red meat the flick…is your head spinning yet?
One week it’s “stop eating X” and the next it’s “only eat Y”, so if you’re more than a little confused about what you should be eating, then don’t worry because you’re not alone. Celebrities are spruiking diets and cookbooks more than ever now, and with most providing real evidence of the benefits they can seem very compelling. But how can all of them be right? If someone was to follow all the different advice what’s left to eat? Air?
Obviously it’s not possible to carry out all these varied diets at once without starving and putting your health at risk (especially when they’re not short-term fad diets but ones for life – like Gwyneth Paltrow and her gluten-free gospel). So if you don’t have any food intolerances or medical conditions, and are simply looking to improve your general health and wellbeing, then which diet is the best to sink your teeth into?
According to Lauren McGuckin, accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dieticians Association of Australia, there is no ‘magic bullet’ solution because our dietary needs are as unique as we are, and diets which point the finger at one particular food group or dietary component (such as carbs, sugar or gluten) simply cause confusion.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there. Blaming one particular dietary element as the cause for weight gain or other health issues is often not the answer and eliminating whole food groups can lead to nutritional shortfalls,” says Lauren.
“For the general population these often-drastic measures are also of little to no benefit, and because of their restrictiveness and the effort required to stick to the plan, they often aren’t sustainable.”
It appears many of these celebrity diets are also misleading in their portrayal, such as the gluten-free diet (which is really a low-carb diet in disguise), and going sugar-free.
“You don’t see results from the ‘no sugar’ diet specifically because you cut out sugar; it’s the act of eating less processed, sugar-containing foods and replacing them with lower calorie wholefoods that has the effect,” says Lauren. “Sugary processed foods and drinks, such as soft-drinks and lollies, are often also high in saturated fat and energy and are a major contribution to weight gain; so limiting these has always been a core dietary recommendation.”
So what do we do then? What should we be eating? According to the experts, there is no sexy solution and the answer is what most of us already know – forget the hype and get back to basics.
Here are some of Lauren’s top tips for eating well for life:
1. Follow Australian Dietary Guidelines
Eat plenty of fruit and veg; lean meat, poultry and seafood; low-fat diary; wholegrain/high fibre breads and cereals; drink plenty of water; and limit alcohol and foods high in saturated fat, added sugars and added salt.
2. Be individual and realistic
Tailor eating to your nutritional and health needs, and to fit with your lifestyle so you can maintain the diet for life.
3. Don’t cut out carbs
They’re a major source of fibre and other important vitamins and minerals. If you want to shed excess weight though, try halving your carbohydrate servings (e.g. cereals, bread, pasta, rice and potatoes).
4. Cook meals from scratch
You’ll reduce salt and sugar content, lessen the chances of additives/preservatives, be able to control the fat content, and improve your food quality by using fresh, top notch ingredients.
5. Eat fresh and unprocessed when you can
Less chemicals, additives and preservatives; and more satisfying as the stomach has to work more to digest wholefoods.
6. Be smart about fat – limit total fat intake for a slimmer waistline, but ensure you include vegetable-based fat sources for a healthy heart (e.g. nuts, avocado and olive oil).
7. Reduce your sugar intake
Limit the amount of sugary foods and added sugar you eat, particularly if you’re diabetic or watching your weight.
8. Eat the rainbow
No need to search for strange superfoods: there are cheaper ones already in your kitchen or garden. Eat foods with different (natural) colours to broaden the types of antioxidants you’re getting.
If your diet could do with a ‘tune-up’ or you suspect you might have a food intolerance, visit the Dieticians Association of Australia or see your GP.
Susan Taylor muses about life at One Woman Circus.
SumoSalad’s dietician Georgina Moore shares her top 10 winter weight loss tips and how to stay healthy during the cooler months.
1. Keep your immune system revving
Stock up on winter warming foods to prevent your immune system going MIA. Think foods that pack a flavour punch such as ginger, garlic, rosemary and other beautiful fresh herbs.
2. Stay warm and keep active
Most Australians gain weight over winter. Don’t become a statistic by making physical activity a part of your daily routine. By keeping your muscles moving, you will keep your metabolism firing.
3. Exercise portion control
As tempting as it may be to go back for seconds of that warming casserole or pie, don’t! Instead, eat slower and take your time to enjoy a standard size serve.
4. Eat warm, well
There are plenty of healthy, hearty and warming options to keep you toasty throughout the cold winter months.
Think oats for breakfast, Sumo Bowls of red quinoa or brown rice for lunch and then roast vegetables salads or a soup for dinner. Make healthy, warm choices every day.
5. Don’t skip meals
Every one needs at least three decent meals each day. No matter how busy you are or how cold it is outside, don’t skip meals. For a balanced, healthy diet always try to include vegetables, lean protein and low GI carbs in each sitting.
6. Winter vegetables…yummy!
As well as cooler weather and shorter days, winter also signals the arrival of some fabulous vegetables. Think root vegetables, zucchini and asparagus. Some herbs are also at their best over these months such as tarragon, basil, thyme, dill, mint, rosemary, ginger, marjoram and oregano.
7. Look for different foods of different colours
Different colours in your foods represent a range of different vitamins and minerals. The more colour on your plate, the wider range of goodness you are receiving!
8. Keep hydrated
In the winter months most buildings, offices and residences have the heat working overtime.
Controlled heating can often be quite dehydrating, so keep the fluids ups and rug up with warm clothing instead.
9. Think good quality protein & low GI carbs
It’s very easy to get hungry in winter and consequently make poor food choices if you don’t base each meal on good
quality lean protein and low GI carbs. These help keep you feeling fuller for longer to prevent the 3pm snack attack.
10. Scrub up
To help prevent the spread of cold and flus make sure you practice good hygiene everywhere and always. Wash your hands prior to preparing and eating foods.
SumoSalad have launched a new winter range called Sumo Bowls, which are served warm. Resident chef, Pete Evans, along with Georgina, have come up with tasty new recipes inspired by Korean bibimbap that are perfect for winter – think brown rice instead of white, and red and white quinoa topped with fresh salad ingredients. Much better options than calorie-heavy winter comfort food.
What are your best tips to staying healthy in winter? Tell us in the comments below!