Have you been wanting to get healthy but are put off by the sheer volume of diet advice out there?
This month Open Colleges’ student Ashley Nuske sorts through the diet hype to give you nine simple but effective changes you can make to the way you eat everyday, for a healthier life.
It feels like everywhere we look these days we are bombarded by suggestions of what constitutes a healthy diet. Paleo, high fat-low carb, high carb-low fat, raw, organic, clean, intermittent fasting… The list goes on and on!
Many of these diets are endorsed by celebrity chefs who are often more concerned about book sales and Facebook followers than health, but there is an association you can turn to for informed, unbiased advice. The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) is made up of over 5,000 accredited, highly educated experts in the field of nutrition and dietetics, so you know you can trust them.
Below you’ll find 9 simple and easy changes you can make to your diet based on DAA recommendations.
1. Eat more fruit and vegetables
I know you’ve heard it a thousand times, but this really is the best small change you can make to your diet.
It doesn’t mean you have to spend crazy amounts of money on organic produce (peer reviewed science has proven you won’t gain any nutritional advantage, safety benefit, or reduce your risk of cancer by eating organic).
It simply means, you should try to consume a variety of five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit every single day.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are low in calories, which means you can eat a lot of them without giving your body a lot of energy.
They also contain lots of healthy fibre and are rich sources of many essential nutrients. Fibre slows down digestion and allows us to feel fuller for longer which helps to stop us from overeating.
2. Eat a wide variety of different foods
Buy foods you haven’t tried before and do a little research on how to prepare them. Not only will you create interest and exploration in your diet, but when you eat a wide variety of foods you increase your chance of hitting all your nutritional requirements.
What about whole foods?
All whole foods are super foods! (whole foods are those that haven’t been processed).
Every single one has its own unique nutritional benefit. Did you know that apples have more antioxidants per gram than goji berries?
3. Eat more plant-based protein
Nuts, beans and legumes – have a go! Getting your protein from plant-based sources will also give you a good dose of fibre and many other micronutrients that animal products cannot.
They are also low in saturated fats, so they are a nutritional win-win!
4. Limit intake of alcohol
Now, I’m not saying you should turn down going to a friend’s birthday party because you might have a few drinks. I’m just saying be mindful of your consumption.
Alcohol has almost the same amount of energy per gram as pure fat.
With alcohol, it’s easy, especially when added to sugary drinks, to clock up a lot of calories which are not giving you any nutritional advantage.
This takes up our energy allowance and limits our ability to obtain nutrient requirements from other food sources.
5. Limit your salt
High salt intake is associated with high blood pressure which can damage your heart.
I know it tastes great and all that, it’s just one of those things. Start by taking salt off your table so you can’t add extra to your meals.
6. Drink plenty of water
You don’t need a lecture on this, just a gentle reminder!
7. Eat wholegrains
When choosing grain-based products, try to choose products which use the entire grain, including the husk.
The husk is packed with nutrients like fibre which will help you stay fuller for longer and help to stop you from overeating.
8. Cut down on processed foods
Now there’s definitely room for the occasional treat, but processed foods are often high in saturated fat, sugar, salt and energy value, and they often contain very little micronutrients.
What does this mean? It means these foods have a lot of calories even in small portions, and they don’t give your body a lot of micronutrients.
If you’re eating a balanced, varied diet, you will find cravings for these kinds of food become less and less common.
9. Keep within the guidelines and eat food you enjoy
Last but not least, food should not only be about nourishing your body and good for your health, but it should also be enjoyed.
If you’re choosing foods you like and they are within the DAA guidelines, you’re more likely to continue a healthy eating pattern than if you have to force things down your throat which are making you gag.
In saying that, don’t be afraid to try new things… You never know, a new favourite could be just around the corner!
Small changes over time equal big results
Making small and simple changes to your diet doesn’t have to be confusing or overly restrictive. You don’t need to buy the latest superfoods, supplements, shakes, pills or blenders. And you don’t need to avoid entire food groups or follow ridiculous restrictive fad diets pushed by unqualified celebrities.
Eating a varied balanced diet should be a pleasure, not a burden.
Following the basic guidelines from accredited experts will ensure you are obtaining all you can from your diet, it’s really that simple!
For more information on dietary guidelines visit the DAA website.
Interested in healthy living?
Open Colleges’ Nutrition and dietetics course could give you skills to help others lead a long and healthy life. Study in your own time to get qualified. Find your course now.