I was recently asked by one of my Bootcamp clients if I ever have ‘blow outs’ with my diet. The simple answer is No, and the reason why is also quite simple – I don’t follow a ‘diet,’ I don’t restrict foods, I don’t deprive myself and I certainly don’t think any food is toxic or poison.
Of course there are foods that are better for us than others, so I simply make sure these ‘healthy’ foods make up the bulk of what I eat every day and enjoy those ‘less healthy’ foods sometimes and in small amounts.
Now this phrase “sometimes and in small amounts” may sound familiar, and it should – the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends we keep our intake of ‘discretionary,’ ‘occasional’ or ‘extra’ foods to “sometime and in small amounts.”
By following the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating as a dietary model I eat a balance of the 5 core food groups, as appropriate to my energy needs, choosing the least process options possible, with a little room for ‘extra’ foods to add to the enjoyment of my diet. My kids also eat in this way. No foods are strictly forbidden but they definitely understand that there are everyday foods, which can always be found in our cupboard and fridge and foods that can be enjoyed on occasions that we don’t routinely keep in the house.
This approach of a balanced, unprocessed and largely plant based ‘diet’ doesn’t really have the marketing grab or sex appeal of say ‘toxic’ this or ‘super food’ that, but it is tried, tested and true. By eating in this way I am not deprived of anything, I don’t feel guilty when I do enjoy these ‘less healthy’ foods and thus I don’t have diet ‘blow outs.’
Yeah sometimes I ‘crave’ something sweet (although it’s really just an emotional ‘craving’ – yep, I might be a nutritionist but I still have some deep seeded emotional eating cues - be them happy, sad or somewhere in between, my emotions want sweet satisfaction), and if I do ‘crave’ something sweet I know I can enjoy, let’s say chocolate, if I want, but I also know that there are other options that will also satisfy me. I love snacking on walnuts and dates or almonds and grapes as these sweet and nutty combos hit my sweet tooth on the head while providing protein, fibre and ‘healthy’ fats which all also aid satiety so I don’t find myself heading back to the fridge in 5 minutes.
As far as sugar cravings go and the need to ‘quit sugar,’ this simply makes no sense to me – especially if you are just substituting ‘sugar’ for another sweetener which does nothing to teach your palate to prefer less sweet flavours. (You can check out my post on non-toxic sugar here and you might also be interested to read more about the myth that sugar causes hyperactivity).
Similarly the debate regarding fats again seems nonsense to me. Substantiated research has certainly shown that some fats are better than others and although some like to intensely dispute which fats are ‘good,’ the resolution whatever your perspective is quiet simple – moderation, balance and a largely unprocessed diet. Added fats of any kind are less than ideal and as the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends, use them in small amounts (If you are still confused about fats you can read more here).
Yes, diet plays a significant role in our physical health but it also plays a significant role in our social and cultural wellbeing, so stress less, enjoy food and make common sense choices - honestly we all know that fruit and veg are good for us right??
Nikki is a PhD qualified Nutritionist and an expert in children's eating.