Forget the Fads
How to go from ‘diet’ to ‘lifestyle’.
By Margaret Mielczarek
It seems like there’s a diet to suit almost everyone these days. From the Paleo diet, to I Quit Sugar and Clean Eating, to the 5:2 Diet and the Low Carb High Fat approach, knowing what to eat and what not to eat can seem a bit daunting and confusing at times. Then there are the often-mixed messages on diets and nutrition that we’re bombarded with by the media and on social media. Quit sugar, don’t quit sugar; eat gluten, don’t eat gluten, grains are good for you, grains cause inflammation – and the list goes on. It’s a wonder anyone knows how to eat any more!
While they each may have some positive aspects, the issue with diets is that they generally have one main thing in common. They tend to be restrictive in one way or another; whether it’s restricting carbs, sugar, dairy, grains or gluten – there’s always something that you have to cut out, eliminate or avoid. While I agree that everyone needs to find and do what works for him or her, it’s also important to remember that, for the most part, diets don’t work; if they did, the multi-billion dollar diet industry would be out of business.
Rather than jumping on the latest trend, why not get back to basics. Why not keep things simple, eat in moderation, don’t overcomplicate things and eat according to your individual need. Life-long dietary changes will happen when you change your mindset from ‘diet’ to ‘lifestyle’. As soon as healthy eating becomes your lifestyle choice, making healthy choices becomes easy. You’ll instantly be able to crowd out your diet with the good stuff, without feeling restricted. Without feeling like, well, you’re on another diet.
Here are some tips to get you started on your journey to a healthier lifestyle. They will make it easier to make healthy choices, so that you can achieve your goals, while feeling amazing!
- Eat mostly plants: In 2014-2015 the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that only seven per cent of people aged two years and older met the recommended usual daily intake for vegetables and 50 per cent met the recommended usual daily intake for fruit. To increase your intake of plants, aim to fill at least half of your plate at meals with vegetables and make it as colourful as possible. Also, enjoy two serves of fruit every day. Fruit is a great snack option packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre.
- Don’t fear healthy fat: Enjoy a moderate amount of healthy fats with your meals. Unsaturated fats largely come from plant-based food sources such as avocado, nuts and seeds, olives, extra virgin olive oil and also fish such as salmon. They have anti-inflammatory properties, are good for your heart health, help with satiety, assist with absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, aid in good mood and help hormonal function. Aim for one to two serves of healthy fats with each meal and enjoy fish twice per week.
- Eat for satiety and watch your portions: To balance blood glucose levels and to stay fuller for longer after meals, so that you’re not searching for a snack an hour after eating, balance each meal with lean proteins, healthy fats and complex, unprocessed carbohydrates.
- Healthy, complex carbohydrates aren’t the enemy: It’s all about timing when it comes to starchy carbohydrates such as rice, quinoa, pasta, sweet potato, potato, pumpkin etc. Eat to meet your training needs. So, increase your intake of carbohydrates if you’re doing more, decrease on rest days, and time your intake around training; before and after training is when you need carbs most. Also, opt for healthy, low GI, complex and less processed carb options such as brown rice, whole grain bread, oats, sweet potato, and pumpkin.
- Distribute protein evenly: Protein is important for muscle adaptation and recovery after training, it also helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer. But it’s important to have even protein distribution at meals across the day, rather than having it all at one or two meals. So try to have a 20-25g protein hit at meals choosing healthy, food sources of protein such as eggs, dairy, lean meat, chicken and fish, legumes and lentils, brown rice and quinoa and nuts. Supplement with protein powder only where needed (if you can’t get to a meal or snack after training).
- Keep your gut healthy: Include probiotics (foods that contain good bacteria) in diet to keep your gut healthy. Include foods such as natural, Greek yoghurt and fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha, all great sources of good bacteria.
- Choose water as your main drink: Don’t drink your calories. Why not swap fruit juice for a piece of fruit and a glass of water? And definitely go easy on the soft drinks, sports drinks and cordials. You simply don’t need them.
- Learn to cook: Get in to the kitchen and try new, healthy recipes. It doesn’t have to be hard and you don’t have to spend hours slaving in that kitchen. Keep it simple and healthy. Stuck for meal ideas? Check out these websites for some ideas: www.daa.asn.au, www.taste.com.au and www.healthyfoodguide.com.au.
- Planning and preparation is key: One of the solutions to making healthy changes stick is consistency. However, it’s hard to be consistent if you’re not organised and preparation will help. There’s nothing worse than when the ‘5pm panic’ hits and you have to decide what you’re having for dinner. This is made harder if you’re juggling work, family commitments and training. Make life easier for yourself by meal planning at the start of the week and pre-preparing foods ready to go during the week.
- Cut the crap: Yes, that means highly-processed food, food high in sugar, salt and fats. Limit these foods to ‘some times’ or special occasions. Sure, if you have a chocolate bar or a pizza every so often, it won’t make too much of a difference, but if you have these foods consistently, that’s where they will start to impact on your goals and your health.
- Don’t focus on the scales alone: Focus on body composition changes rather than weight loss alone. Focus on increasing lean body mass and decreasing body fat. Focus on how you feel – do you feel fit, strong and healthy? Or are you feeling sick, rundown and fatigued? This will help you stick to your lifestyle changes. There is so much more to health than weight alone.
For more on healthy eating, contact an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) – they’re the experts in food and nutrition. APDs provide practical, tailored advice based on the latest science, and can help motivate and support you to take charge of what you eat. Visit the ‘Find an APD’ section of the Dietitians Association of Australia website at www.daa.asn.au to find an APD in your area.
Margaret is an accredited clinical and sports dietitian and Level 1 anthropometrist, who specialises in sports nutrition for endurance athletes. Margaret runs a successful nutrition and sports nutrition consultancy in Melbourne, Fuel Right Nutrition (www.fuelrightnutrition.com.au), where she works closely with high performance athletes. Margaret is passionate about achieving health and performance through whole foods and is a firm believer in ‘food as fuel’ to live and train.
Margaret is also a long course triathlete, competing in various long course triathlon events across Australia. Margaret is a three-time Ironman finisher and one day hopes to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.