Diet reboot - simple changes to help manage weight
Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, research shows that around 1 in 3 Aussies made a resolution to lose weight. Cue a boost in fad diets and quick weight loss plans, with Google searches for “weight loss” increasing in the lead up to beach season.
However, for the majority of people, these quick weight loss diets don’t last, and most end up regaining the weight (and possibly more) over the long term. What if we were to tell you that you weren’t failing your diet, the diet was failing you?
Why diets don’t work.
The reason that most diets don’t work is because the act of dieting is not a sustainable one. Quick weight loss diets often recommend that you significantly reduce your calorie intake or cut out certain food groups. While this can lead to initial weight loss, it is not something that is usually able to be maintained long term. Overly restricting our diet can also mean that we end up craving the foods we think we are meant to avoid. So, when we are faced with those foods, we feel out of control and end up overindulging - rather than enjoying a couple of squares of chocolate after dinner, we end up eating the whole block.
So what should we do instead?This year, instead of focusing on your weight being the key marker of your health (and possibly happiness), our dietitians recommend thinking about ways that you can make positive changes to your diet that are going to improve your overall wellbeing. The benefits of a healthy diet stretch far beyond shedding kilos. From improved mood to helping to manage stress to reducing the risk of chronic disease, a well-rounded diet can help you improve your physical and mental health.
So, we asked our dietitians to each share their number one, go-to move for eating healthier. And some may surprise you!
Don’t cut carbs
Nicola Perry, APD, newest team member at Sanitarium
Avoiding carbs is one of the most common changes I hear people talk about when they want to shed kilos. While low carb diets may cause weight loss initially, like any restrictive diet, this form of dieting can be unsustainable and often impacts quality of life. In fact there’s evidence to support the long-term benefits of incorporating quality low GI, high fibre sources of carbohydrates into your meals.
Carbs are an essential part of your diet. They are your body’s favorite fuel source, feeding your brain and muscles. Quality carbs also contain fermentable fibres which are imperative for good digestive health and also help prevent dips and spikes in blood sugar levels helping you maintain steady energy levels throughout the day. So my simple tip is to just choose more quality, high fibre low GI carbs, like those found in wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits, veggies, legumes and nuts. Think – the bulkier, grainier and seedier the better- you get the theme!
Charlotte Moor, Dietitian, 5 years at Sanitarium
Slowing down and eating mindfully has been shown as a key way to help maintain a healthy weight and to improve your overall wellbeing. Being conscious of each mouthful without distractions (no more mindless snacking while watching Netflix) helps you to focus on what you are eating, allows you to better gauge how much you eat and tune into the signs of feeling full. Mindful or intuitive eating has been practiced for centuries and it’s a premise to the Okinawan lifestyle. Okinawa is one of the world’s blue zone regions, or exceptional hot spots where people live extraordinarily long and healthy lives.
Eat more plants
Trish Guy, APD, over 20 years at Sanitarium
Loading up on plants is one of the tastiest ways to watch your weight and stay healthy - it’s no wonder plant-based food is such a big trend. When put to the test, vegetarian diets regularly come out on top. As well as getting more nutrients, eating plant-based foods provide plenty of dietary fibre to keep you feeling full for longer and reduce snacking.
However, simply going vegetarian isn’t an instant guarantee to better health. You can be an unhealthy vegetarian if you don’t have a balanced diet. With interest in vegan and vegetarian diets on the rise there’s also been an explosion in the number of fast-food options to tempt you. As with any healthy diet, the key is to switching to a healthy plant-based or full vegetarian diet is to eat a wide variety of whole foods - veggies, fruit, legumes, wholegrains and nuts - to make sure you get a good balance of fibre, quality carbs, plant protein and plenty of nutrients. Check out our Beginner’s guide to vegetarian eating for some great tips and recipe ideas to help get you started on a plant-based journey.
Keep up good breakfast habits
Jess Ferguson, APD, PhD, 1 year at Sanitarium
Starting your day with breakfast not only provides energy to kickstart the day, but it plays a key role in helping you meet your daily nutrient requirements and powering your brain. The old adage “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper” rings true with the scientific evidence showing front-loading calories from nutritious foods to the start of your day can have a range of benefits, from helping to control your appetite to allowing for more steady blood sugar levels throughout the day.
A nutritious, balanced brekkie is one that provides a source of wholegrains (like wholegrain breakfast cereals or brown bread), protein (like yoghurt, baked beans, nuts or seeds), some fruit, and even veggies (veggies make an awesome addition to smoothies.
Eliza Baird, APD, 3 years at Sanitarium
There’s no doubt we’ve been snacking more and it’s a particularly easy habit to fall into if you’re working from home. The good news is, to give your diet a healthy makeover, there’s no need to cut snacks all together. Instead try to focus on snacking right and enjoying your snacks mindfully. Choose snacks that contain quality wholegrains or high-fibre carbohydrates and protein to help keep hunger pangs at bay, maintain your energy levels and even help fill nutritional gaps in your diet. Snacks are also a great way to get that extra serve of fruit or veggies! Some of my favourite snacks are simply a handful of unsalted nuts, wholegrain crackers or veggie sticks with hummus, some fresh fruit (especially if I’m craving something sweet) or even some plain popcorn. Lastly, don’t forget to drink plenty of water – you may find that keeping hydrated will result in less cravings and over-snacking. If you want more go-to snack ideas check out these healthy alternatives.