Healthy Eating

How are you feeding your body and how is it affecting your health?

Poor eating has a direct impact on our physical health, weight, mental health and energy and in fact, impacts on every single part of your body.

The facts

On average Australian women are gaining six to seven kilograms every decade. It is easier to put in place measures to prevent weight gain than to lose weight already gained, so if you notice a small progressive weight gain of one or two kilograms per year, it may be helpful to make some simple lifestyle changes to prevent becoming overweight.

Some of the health problems related to poor diet / weight gain include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Gall bladder disease
  • High blood cholesterol and triglycerides
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Some cancers
  • Impaired fertility
  • Lower back pain
  • Heart disease

Long-term lifestyle change is the most effective approach to keeping your health and weight at its best. This means taking care everyday to make some small changes to you diet and physical activity.

How do I start a healthy eating plan?

1. First ASSESS your current diet and weight. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I gaining weight, or have I maintained a healthy weight for the past six months?
  • What are the three most important changes I can make right now to the way I eat? Think about the things you do daily. Should you reduce your alcohol intake, have more low-fat dairy foods, or eat more fruit and vegetables? More ideas are listed below.
  • Can I maintain these changes for a week, a month or a year? Whilst it is good to make changes even for a little while (e.g. a month with no take-away food), the changes you make for a year will be more important. Try some changes for a week or two then re-assess how you are going with them.
  • How will those changes affect the people around me? Sometimes you may have good intentions but the rest of the family don’t share your enthusiasm for extensive changes to their usual meals. Introduce new foods, cooking styles or ideas gradually without too much fuss and you may be surprised how they all enjoy the variety.

2. Next plan and ACT
Try some new foods and recipes, set some small goals. Write out a plan, put it up on view, e.g. put a note on your fridge such as ‘My goal for this week is to eat fresh fruit every day’.

3. Finally REVIEW what you did and alter your plan
Did it work? What should you change? How could you improve your healthy eating plan or make it easier for yourself? Review your plan and write out your new goal for the week

Healthy eating tips

Foods to eat plenty of:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit – two to three pieces of fresh fruit and five to seven serves of fresh vegetables each day. These will provide fibre, vitamins, minerals and important antioxidants.
  • Drink plenty of water – six to eight glasses per day.
  • Eat plenty of fish – one to three serves per week. These will provide the important omega-3 fatty acids, which are powerful protectors of the heart and blood vessels. Seek your health practitioner’s advice regarding fish if you are pregnant.
  • Have plenty of calcium – three serves of low-fat dairy foods or substitutes (e.g. calcium fortified soy milks, or if you are unable to consume these products talk to your doctor about bone strength).
  • Include wholegrain foods daily such as wholemeal breads and oat cereals.

Foods to eat small amounts or limit:

  • Limit butter, and animal fat intake. Choose oils wisely e.g. include olive, canola, sunflower or safflower oils.
  • Small amounts of alcohol (no more than one to two glasses per day).
  • Take away or pre-prepared convenience foods such as frozen pies and desserts should be eaten only occasionally.
  • Limit snack foods such as potato crisps, corn chips, biscuits, cakes. Make them occasional treats not everyday foods.

Is there an important meal for the day?

Skipping meals is one of the biggest mistakes women make, particularly if you are trying to manage your weight. Regular meals will maintain your energy and provide the nutrients you need each day, so you will feel more like being active, and less likely to snack. Breakfast is important for improving mood and memory, boosting your metabolism and for weight control. A cereal containing oats, such as porridge, muesli or other wholegrain, high-fibre cereal is ideal with low-fat milk, fruit and wholegrain toast will provide a substantial amount or your requirements of calcium, fibre, B vitamins, zinc and many other nutrients. Those that are labelled low GI will give a slow release of energy and keep you satisfied longer. You may find you snack less which will help your weight.

Is following some of the current fad diets unhealthy?

It’s tempting to look at some of the strict diets that promise quick weight loss. These fad diets are difficult to follow and provide short-term results. Frequent use of these diets with weight gain between  use can cause dehydration, lack of adequate vitamins and minerals, weakness, fatigue, nausea, headaches and constipation. Carbohydrate foods, particularly the carbohydrates from wholegrain wheat, oats, rye, rice, fruit and vegetables, provide important nutrients and fibre, are important to your health and energy and should not be eliminated from your diet. You may however reduce the carbohydrates from sugar, found in biscuits and confectionery without harm.

What about alcohol?

Alcohol is high in kilojoules and, despite small amounts having some benefit, it can have risks if used in excess. One or two standard drinks per day are considered low risk for women. A standard drink is 100mL of wine, 30mL of spirits or 285mL of full-strength beer.

What else will keep my health on track?

If you are physically active, manage stress and avoid smoking and excess alcohol, you’ll feel even better – a great recipe for getting the most out of life.

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