I work with people every day who are trying to improve their health and wellbeing with food. In my consults, I hear some of the same problems cropping up over and over again. So here’s my list of five nutrition mistakes that I see every day.
- Going on a diet
It might seem crazy to hear that, as a dietitian, I hate diets. The reason is that diets tend to have two things in common:
- They have arbitrary rules that don’t consider you as an individual
- They are temporary.
I often ask my clients “do you see yourself eating this way when you’re 80?” No? Then why start now? If you want to make a permanent change to your health and wellbeing you need a permanent change in what you eat. So my advice – make changes that you can keep up with, long-term.
- Not drinking enough (water that is)
Most of my clients do not drink enough water. They could be too busy, have trouble getting access to water or just don’t like it. Dehydration can make you feel tired which makes it harder to make good decisions about food. Some people also experience cravings for food when they haven’t had enough to drink. The best way to tell if you’ve had enough is to check your wee. You want to make sure it’s a light colour (like lemon cordial) and avoid dark colours (like apple juice). If you don’t like plain water try adding some juice, fresh fruit or making it into a herbal tea.
- Eating when you’re not hungry
The easiest way to eat more than you need is by ignoring your body’s feelings of hunger and fullness. Take a moment right now to “tune in” to your hunger. Most people don’t realise that the stomach is just beneath the ribcage and (empty) is around the size of your fist. Close your eyes and try to listen in to how your stomach is feeling. Can you feel an emptiness or growling? If so, you’re probably hungry and it’s time to have something to eat. Do you feel a sense of tightness or fullness? You must have eaten recently. If it’s quite strong then maybe you ate too much. Maybe you feel nothing at all? That’s ok! That means you’re not full or empty. It can be hard to eat only when you’re hungry. You might have a set lunch break or be eating at a social event. It’s best to plan your day so that you feel a little hungry before each meal or snack. For example, if your lunch break is set at 12pm, but you’re not hungry yet, try having a smaller snack at morning tea time. Having said that though, there will always be times when you eat when you’re not hungry (birthday cake? Yum!) But it’s important that these moments are your choice not an accident.
- Missing out on vegetables
Vegetables have a lot of benefits to your health and wellbeing. They have a lot of vitamins and can help prevent heart disease and some cancers. They are also high in fibre which means they digest more slowly and help you feel full. Unfortunately, most Australians don’t eat the recommended amount of vegetables each day. Only 7% of Australians eat enough! One serving is ½ a cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of salad. Most people should aim for five servings every day. Why not take the challenge? It’s not easy to fit that many vegetables in but it can make you feel a whole lot better.
- Choosing portion sizes according to someone else’s rules
How do you decide how much to eat? Do you know how much is enough to stop you feeling hungry, to make you feel comfortable or to make you feel full? Most of my clients would have trouble answering these questions. Here are a few reasons why you might struggle to choose the right portion for you:
– Growing up you had to “finish your plate”
– You eat in restaurants where they serve large meals
– You’ve eaten the same amount for a long time (maybe since you were much younger) out of habit
– You eat foods that come in pre-packaged, one-serve packets
My advice to my clients is always to eat less and see what happens. Do you still feel hungry? No worries, eat a bit more. So you get hungry earlier? That’s ok! Eat again. You can’t know how much is right for you without a little trial and error. You don’t need to be afraid of hunger either, it’s the best tool you have to know how much your body needs.
If you would like more tips or advice on how to apply this to your lifestyle, feel free to email me at Cassandra.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 9762 9478 to make an appointment.
- Better Health Channel. Water – a vital nutrient [Internet]. Victoria: Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria; 2014 [updated 2014 May; cited 2018 Jun 23]. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/water-a-vital-nutrient
- May, M. Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. Am I Hungry? Publishing: USA; 2013.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients [Internet]. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 07/06/2013 [cited 2018 Jun 23]. Report No.: 4364.0.55.007 Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.007~2011-12~Main%20Features~Vegetable%20products%20and%20dishes~722