If you’ve found your way to this article because you’re after the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of nutrition, then you’re not going to get the answer that you expect. However, please read on. We’d like to share an important message about this topic that will help you long term with your diet.
“What foods should I cut out of my diet to be healthy?” is a question that dietitians often get asked. And for good reason. Each year we’re bombarded with a suite of new fad diets and different patterns of eating all claiming a sense of supremacy. Many of these diets highlight foods that we should stop eating to be “healthy”. A fad diet that promises rapid weight loss through the restriction of certain foods, yet without the backing of science, causes much confusion as the recommendations of what you ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ eat is often contradictory to current health recommendations. Not to mention that each fad diet also has their own set of rules and many of them contradict each other.
In a social media-fuelled world fixated on healthy eating, there is no wonder why we’re obsessed over every single nutrient we put inside our bodies. A “healthy life” means something different to everyone and unfortunately, when we restrict foods, it often results in negative food relationships, guilt, bingeing, and overeating. Rather than approaching your diet from the perspective of what you should cut out, I’d like to encourage you to take a different approach.
Overcoming Food Fears
Diet culture is good at is instilling fear into people. And fear, is not a positive mindset to make healthy changes from. Mostly because many of the things we fear, aren’t true. For example: diet culture makes us fear that certain foods will miraculously cause weight gain, slow down our metabolism, trigger skin break outs, promote inflammation, gut discomfort, chronic diseases or all the above combined! *GASP*. And although our diet can influence these things, it is never to the extent that we are led to believe through the scaremongering of the industry.
A better approach to take is to allow all foods to be part of your diet and focus on the overall pattern, rather than the individual foods and nutrients. In fact, dietitians, who are pro-evidence, pro-science, and pro-food, promote eating with such a mindset. We believe that anything can be part of a healthy and balanced diet, if you give yourself permission to indulge in moderation. Letting go of food fears and the desire to restrict specific foods will help you in establishing a balance between nourishment and enjoyment.
Enjoy the foods you eat and eat the foods that you enjoy
Food is not just about the nutrients it contains. It is a memory, a place, a meal shared with your nearest and dearest and a real sense of enjoyment.
If you give yourself the permission to approach your diet from a place of kindness, you’ll re-gain control over your food choices rather than lose it.
While there has been a time when a salad didn’t get your taste buds tingling with excitement, culinary science has progressed in a way that makes healthier foods more appealing. Enjoying the food that you eat is all about making foods that we should be eating on an everyday basis flavoursome and something that doesn’t feel like a chore. I for one, will die on the hill that declares we can eat for pleasure but in a way that is beneficial to our physical health as well as our well-being.
Consider diet diversity
“Devil foods” such as dairy, gluten, carbohydrates and most recently, nightshade vegetables are common culprits within the prescription for restriction. While the reasons for dietary restriction are often mixed, studies suggest that diversity is the best predictor for diet quality, nutrient density, and overall health. So only remove certain foods if you have a legitimate medical reason to do so. When you free yourself from unnecessary restriction, the more foods you get to eat and the more opportunities you have to experiment and diversify your intake.
Always favour quality over quantity (a calorie is not just a calorie)
If you’re currently counting calories…. STOP! Why you ask? Because a diet that emphasises diet quality over calories is supported by research which concludes that a wholefood-containing diet helps people with weight management more so than counting calories does (sorry, My Fitness Pal). This is for many reasons but partly because we should not be defining food by its calorie content. Instead, we should be considering the various effects food has on our appetite, hormones, and metabolic health.
Bringing the focus back to the basics of a foundational diet such as vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, dairy and meat is equally important for weight control and long-term wellbeing.
When we focus on efforts on this kind of dietary pattern, we naturally get our energy intake to a more reasonable level without the need for drastic restriction.
Save money, eat at home
A simple tip but hear me out. Research shows that those who eat more home cooked meals rather than getting takeaway have healthier diets, whether weight loss is a goal or not. It is hard to ignore fast food cravings, I get it and I am right there with you. Something I do find helpful when battling with these cravings is to stop and think “can I re-create this at home”? Often the answer is:, absolutely. The benefits of doing this are multi-factorial as A) you will be saving money, B) you don’t have to leave your house and C) from a nutrition perspective, the homemade alternative will be much lower in sodium, saturated fat, added sugars and overall energy.
Strive for balance, nothing good has ever come from food restriction
Indulging is part of healthy living, restricting foods that we enjoy is not.
Therefore, everyday foods and indulgences do not have to be mutually exclusive. I absolutely love gelato, Allen’s red frogs and greasy takeaway burgers and chips. They make me happy and while they may not provide a lot of nourishment per say, the indulgent brings me joy. However, I also love Brussel sprouts, yogurt, and any kind of fruit I can get my hands on, and I enjoy eating these foods as well, but I would never consider them as indulgences. Therein lies the difference.
It is easy to throw in the towel and think ‘treat yourself’ but it’s important to be mindful of how frequently we’re choosing to indulge. Yes, I enjoy ice-cream, lollies and takeaway but I wouldn’t eat them every single day. Why? Because I also enjoy and find pleasure in eating lots of wholefoods for nourishment.
Get back in-tune with your hunger
Our hunger cues can become overly complicated. Intuitive eating allows us to marry internal hunger such as cravings and wants with external factors such as our nutrition knowledge and needs. Start to listen to your body and understand the cues it gives you when you’re physically hungry and when you’re satisfied. Also begin to recognise how your body reacts when you eat nourishing foods versus processed and takeaway foods.
Next time someone tells you that cutting out a certain food or food group is going to make you the healthiest version of yourself, ask them where they got that information. Can they back up those claims with a peer-reviewed scientific paper? If not, block out the noise.
Our team can help you take that first step to approach your diet from a place of kindness without unnecessary restriction. Learn more about them here: