Think your food habits are healthy? Dietitian Caitlin Reid reveals the top five foodie fads ruining your waistline.
Raw food, green smoothies, sugar-free and paleo foods are just some of the latest health trends sweeping the nation. But just because we perceive these food habits to be better for us, doesn’t mean they actually are. In fact, simply labeling food as ‘organic’ leads people to believe the food is tastier, more nutritious and lower in kilojoules than the exact same food bearing a label of ‘regular’. Known as the health halo effect, perceiving a food to be healthy leads us to lower our guard and ultimately we end up overeating or even feel entitled to indulge. Sound familiar? Here are five food habits that may be ruining your waistline this winter.
Health Halo 1: Loading up on raw goodies
The raw food movement is all about minimising your intake of processed food and loading up on plant-based foods. By doing this you’ll up your fibre intake and limit your intake of nasties such as saturated fat, sugar and salt. In theory this might sound ideal, but large helpings of raw caramel slice made with lashings of coconut oil, dates, tahini and maple syrup will still see you eating more saturated fat and sugar than you need. And, it’s also not ok to eat this raw caramel slice for breakfast. Raw or cooked, caramel slice is not a staple food item and should be kept for special occasions.
Health Essential: Whether your treats are raw or cooked, make sure you keep them as just that – treats! Enjoy them occasionally, in portion-controlled amounts and remember they’re definitely not a suitable meal option. When you do eat them, enjoy them as a snack.
Health Halo 2: Downing large smoothies just because they’re green
No wonder green smoothies are the latest health craze – they’re easy to whip up and contain a range of super ingredients like kale, spinach and celery. But along with veggies, fruit and milk, you’ll also find high-kilojoule additions like honey, peanut butter, chocolate and syrups. These rich additions mean these smoothies contain far too many kilojoules to be enjoyed as a snack. They’re also not great for your teeth, with research linking them to enamel erosion particularly when consumed between meals.
Health Essential: When made with unsweetened yoghurt, skim milk, fresh fruit, seeds and leafy greens, smoothies can be a great option. Add in coconut water, syrups, coconut oil and loads of fruit however and you’ll overdo the sugar and fat. You also won’t get enough protein. The best option is to make your own smoothie so that you know exactly what goes into it. Keep your teeth happy by drinking it at meal times.
Health Halo 3: Eating only high-protein, low-carb snacks
If you believe the hype, then carbs are evil and anything with the words protein on it must be a good option. Whether it’s protein balls, bars, shakes or brownies, the latest foodie trend is to feast on protein at all times. But to get the most out of your workout, you’ll need more than protein – carbohydrates give you energy to succeed. Check out the label on your protein-loaded snack and you’ll notice most are highly processed with artificial ingredients, cheap fillers and sugar alcohols. Not as natural as you might have thought!
Health Essential: If you want to maintain your waistline, forget the hype and realise it’s not all about protein. Good quality carbohydrates like brown rice, oats and quinoa provide your body with fuel. You can meet your protein requirements by including lean meat, skinless chicken, eggs, fish, legumes, nuts or dairy products with all meals and snacks. If you are looking for a protein product, find one that contains natural ingredients.
Health Halo 4: Supplements mean you can eat what you like
Each morning you wash down your multivitamin, fish oil tablets and probiotics with a tonic, before recovering from your workout with a protein shake. In between taking these pills and potions you find yourself skipping meals and chowing down on burgers and fries because you feel the supplements are giving you everything you need. But it doesn’t matter how many supplements you take, for optimal health your body needs real food. A pill or potion cannot deliver all the complex combinations of antioxidants and nutrients found in food.
Health Essential: Supplements are designed to do just that; supplement your diet. They shouldn’t be the main focus, nor should they be a health halo inviting you to make poor food choices. To become the healthiest version of yourself, consistently eat a balanced diet with a wide variety of whole foods. And only if you need to, add in the odd supplement that meets your individual needs.
Health Halo 5: Your recipes are sugar-free
Replacing cane sugar with agave syrup, rice malt syrup, coconut sugar, honey, dates or maple syrup doesn’t make your favourite recipes sugar-free. These ingredients are in fact all alternative options for sweetening your favourite dish and they’re all in fact sugar. Whether you choose agave syrup, rice malt syrup or maple syrup there isn’t any miraculous health benefits, just sweetness.
Health Essential: Small amounts of sugar in your diet are ok. Instead of focusing on the type you are consuming, focus on the amount. Aim for natural sugars in the form of fruit, yoghurt and milk and reduce the amount of added sugars.
Photo Credit: Graphic Stock
About the author
Caitlin Reid is a unique health professional with qualifications as an accredited nutritionist, accredited exercise physiologist and yoga teacher. Caitlin is passionate about all things health and wellness, and keeps up-to-date with the latest health research, which she uses when contributing expert advice to fitness, lifestyle and food companies. She is also the nutrition expert for the Women’s Fitness magazine, the dietitian for South Sydney Rabbitohs and NSW Swifts, and the ambassador for Papaya Australia. Follow Caitlin on Instagram @caitlinareid or visit her website.