12 Dietitian-Approved Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle
Keeping our bodies properly nourished isn’t always easy – busy lifestyles and heavy workloads can see us drinking several cups of coffee before having a single glass of water. But every day is a fresh opportunity to take a moment and refocus on our health.
The internet is a minefield of nutrition misinformation, diet trends, and food fads that sneak their way into our newsfeeds disguised as ‘helpful’ ads. To help sort fact from fiction, we went directly to an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist for guidance.
Sarah Why from The Good Food Clinic is passionate about using the latest science in nutrition to improve diets across the country. We asked her some common nutrition questions, from how much salt we should be consuming to which oils are actually the healthiest. Sarah gave her insights to help us identify the best ways to nourish our bodies
1. How much water should we actually be drinking each day?
When it comes to the pillars of nutrition, it is surprising how often we overlook hydration. Water plays a role in blood pressure regulation, digestion, metabolic processes and electrical activity within the body. For an average adult we should be aiming for 2-3 litres a day. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty: once you are thirsty you are already dehydrated.
Tips: have a glass of water with meals or snacks and spruce up your water with a slice of fruit to keep it interesting.
2. When it comes to salt and sugar, how much is actually too much?
When it comes to sugars in our diet, it is recommended to keep free sugars to less than 10% of our total energy intake from food and drink. Free sugars are sugars added to food and drink and sugars naturally present in honey, syrup, fruit juice and fruit concentrate (WHO, 2015). This does not mean we can’t enjoy our favourite chocolate or dessert, but rather to enjoy in moderation.
Salt intake of less than 5 grams per day for adults helps to reduce blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack (WHO, 2015). A typical western diet is high in salt, also known as sodium. Having a low-salt diet doesn’t just mean not adding salt to meals. Salt can be found in baked goods, crackers, bread, condiments and sauces. An effective way to balance your diet is by increasing Potassium rich foods such as fruit and vegetables.
3. What are some balanced breakfast ideas you would recommend for kids?
I love an easy brekky, especially if you have a family to fuel in the mornings. The best recipes to suit the entire family are Bircher muesli and egg muffins. Both are easy to prepare in large batches and only require 1 mixing bowl. A common complaint I hear from parents is that the kids are ‘fussy eaters’, so why not get them involved? They might even help with the cleaning up!
4. What are the best foods to incorporate into your diet to hit your daily iron needs if you’re reducing your meat consumption?
Firstly, give yourself a pat on the back because reducing your meat consumption is good for the environment. When it comes to iron from plants, beans, lentils and tofu are great sources of plant iron also known as non-heme. Non-heme iron is not as readily absorbed compared to heme iron found in meat. Be sure to cook your beans and lentils appropriately and pair with Vitamin C rich food to assist with the absorption.
5. As more and more people are choosing to follow vegan diets, what are some effective ways to add calcium to diets?
The top tip I say to anyone following or considering a vegan diet is: FORTIFICATION. Fortification is the process of adding nutrients to a food or drink that was not originally there but is beneficial for the health of the consumer. Calcium is typically in dairy products so when following a vegan diet, you need to select food and drink that reflects a similar nutrition profile.
6. There are more oils on the market than ever before. Are some oils actually healthier than others?
It’s been great to see an increase in the variety of oils available however, there have also been many health claims to help promote new oils. Oils are either made up of poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats or saturated fats. Unsaturated fats have been linked to improved heart and brain health whereas saturated fat in excess increases risk of heart disease. A common belief is that coconut oil is rich in ‘healthy fats’ however it is high in saturated fats and should be enjoyed in moderation. I recommended extra virgin olive oil for an all-purpose oil. This is because its stable chemical bonds can tolerate high cooking temperatures.
Tip: Always store your oil in away from oxygen and light to prevent the oil turning rancid, ruining taste and nutritional properties.
7. What are probiotics and why do they matter?
Probiotics are the old, current, and new bacteria living in your gut. We receive a healthy dose of probiotics from our mother at birth and acquire trillions more throughout our life. 2020 is the year for probiotics with research showing the vast health benefits from mental health, sleep, hormones, irritable bowel syndrome management and even athletes’ performance! Keep in mind, this research is in its infancy, but it’s looking promising! When it comes to your diet, the main sources of probiotics are fermented foods such as kimchi or kefir and yoghurt.
8. How much fibre do we need every day, why is it important and what are some foods to add to our diet to increase our fibre intake?
Eating enough fibre is non-negotiable when it comes to health. Women need 25g a day and men 30g a day. Not enough of us are reaching this target and as a consequence our health if copping it. Fibre is found in fruit, vegetables, grains and cereals and reduce the risk of bowel cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and type II diabetes. Not to mention prebiotics, which are fermentable fibres that feed your gut bacteria.
9. There are some very fussy little eaters out there who refuse to eat a wide variety of good healthy foods, what are some of the most important foods to get into their diets?
The main foods to focus to support growth and development are building foods such as meat, eggs and dairy and fuelling foods such as grains and cereals. Colourful foods such as vegetables and fruits are just as important but often our little ones are resistant to try them, so make the experience a stress-free, fun activity with no expectation that your kid will love it on the first try.
10. What does a balanced dinner plate look like?
As a rule of thumb, two fists vegetables, one palm of meat or alternative, one fist pasta/rice/potato and a thumb of healthy fats.
11. When it comes to caffeine and alcohol, how much is too much?
It is best to stick to 2-5 cups of coffee a day and no higher as coffee is a stimulant, causing sleep disruption, false sense of alertness and can also reduce the absorption of certain nutrients. Alcohol on the other hand is limited to no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.
12. When you go grocery shopping, what do you look out for on the nutritional panel on the back of the pack?
What I focus on depends on the product. For example, if I am looking for a cooking sauce, I’ll start at the ingredients list. The ingredients are listed from highest to lowest quantity, so if sugar is the second ingredient, I know the product is going to be high in sugar. After viewing the ingredients list, I look at the per 100g column and compare carbohydrate, sodium, fats to other similar products. It is important to only compare 100g/ml of a product with 100g/ml of a similar product as serving size will vary.
If you’d like to learn more about how to meet your everyday nutrition needs, Sarah recommends speaking with Accredited Practicing Dietitians and Accredited Nutritionists who are experts when it comes to the science of nutrition. There are blogs, websites and podcasts for all areas of interest, however it is important to get your information from qualified health professionals.
If you love podcasts, try listening to: 99% FAD FREE, The Nourished Wrap or Don’t salt my game.
Fill up your Instagram feed with insightful and hilarious nutrition content from The Good Food Clinic, Authentic_Spoon, The Nutrition Guru & the Chef, Jono Steedman and Aidan_The_Dietitian. Great websites to read are The Good Food Clinic, Nutrition Australia and Eat Right.