Most people know that a healthy diet keeps your weight in check, helps with weight loss and improves your overall health and wellbeing.

Did you know however, that a nutritious diet reduces the risk of premature death and disease, such as heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers? Poor health is often related  to a number of lifestyle choices, including consuming a large amount of high energy foods, and/or foods that are high in:

  • sugar, such as biscuits, cakes, pastries, confectionery, as well as sugary drinks
  • salt, such as fried foods, potato chips and other savoury snacks and
  • saturated fat, such as butter, cream, coconut and palm oil

Although these foods are often referred to as sometimes foods, and therefore encouraged and reserved for special occasions or the occasional treat, many Australians are consuming these sometimes foods on a daily basis. As a result, many Australians are struggling to keep their weight within a healthy weight range and are not living their best versions of themselves as a result of it.

If this is you and would like to get your health and wellbeing back on track, a great start is to reflect on whether you eat the above discretionary foods. If you do and would like to make a change, consider reducing your intake, and if appropriate and possible for you, cut out these foods completely, as they provide low to no nutritional value.

When wanting to eat a healthier diet, what can be overwhelming however, is where to begin… With so much information presented in the media from various sources, it often creates a lot of confusion; it can be difficult to assess what is true and accurate, and what is based on good solid evidence.

So what is recommended?

Follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines. The Australian Dietary Guidelines were developed to help Australians make good healthy food choices, and as a result improve their overall health and wellbeing.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines provide the most up-to-date information on nutrition and it’s impact on our health. They are based on the latest scientific evidence and expert opinion, for a healthier Australian diet. They provide realistic and practical advice taking into consideration individual cultural backgrounds and personal preferences.

So what do the Guidelines recommend for optimal health? The Guidelines recommend choosing a wide variety of nutritious foods every day from the five food groups. This includes a range of:

  1. vegetables and legumes/beans
  2. grain/high fibre foods
  3. fruit
  4. lean meats and poultry, including fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds
  5. dairy products including milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives, mostly reduced fat (NHMRC, 2013).

Not sure how to put this into practice?

There is an abundance of information available to help you get started, including the Australian Government’s Eat for Health website which shares a selection of healthy recipes, as well as a calculator for you to calculate your daily energy needs.

Another useful resource is the Cancer Council’s LiveLighter program, which has a number of healthy recipes to encourage people to eat well and maintain a healthy weight. It also has a junk food calculator which highlights the amount of kilojoules you’ve eaten in the junk food, how much money you have spent, as well as the number of teaspoons and sugar. It is a powerful visual and can be a great motivator to encourage you to start thinking about what junk foods you’re eating, how much of it, and how it’s affecting your health and hip pocket.

Achieving a healthy lifestyle is achievable and possible. The key is to start small and take some action; even one small step such as reducing your sugary drink intake can make a difference to your overall health and wellbeing. The other key step is to be consistent every day with the new lifestyle choices you’re making…

Other helpful tips include:

  • eat at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables every day 
    • incorporate veggies in all your meals, including breakfast (such as a vegetable omelette) 
  • eat breakfast every morning
    • it will help to kick start your metabolism and can reduce binge eating later in the day 
  • drink water
    • it keeps you hydrated, and keeps your body and mind in optimal working order
  • limit sugary drinks
    • they’re additional calories and provide no nutritional benefits 
  • limit high kilojoule and high fat food and drink, to once a week or less
    • save them for a weekend treat, or a special occasion 
  • choose the right portion size for you
    • try a smaller plate, and try not to go back for seconds 
  • move your body as often as you can
    • even a 5 – 10 minute walk is a great start 
  • keep a food or exercise diary
    • it will help you track exactly what you’re doing (and not doing/eating) 
  • eat slowly and mindfully
    • savour every bite; reflect on the taste and nutritious benefits of eating good clean food 
  • set some healthy eating and exercise goals
    • what small step can you take on a daily basis to improve your health and wellbeing? 

Need some extra help?

If you’re struggling, there are a number of services available that can help. Speak to your doctor for further information and also consider speaking to a dietitian. Dietitians are university trained and can offer you dietary advice that is practical and tailored for you. They can help improve your understanding about nutrition, and they can support you with realistic action steps so that you CAN be successful and improve your overall health and wellbeing.

We hope you enjoyed this post and until next time, wish you all great health and wellbeing.

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National Health and Medical Research Council (2013) Clinical practice guidelines for the management of overweight and obesity in adults, adolescents and children in Australia. Melbourne: National Health and Medical Research Council.