Here we go again on the merry-go-round of endless contradictory dietary advice…
The National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration have called for a ‘major overhaul’ of current dietary guidelines, saying that focusing on eating a low-fat diet is making people fat.
Their new report has sparked a flurry of misleading headlines and online rows that are unhelpful, to say the least.
I’ve been in the ‘business’ of writing about nutrition since I graduated in the subject in 1986, which means I’ve seen an awful lot of this before.
So let me tell you something to calm the waters of your possible swirling minds if you’re wondering what on earth you ‘should’ be doing when it comes to shopping, cooking and eating your meals.
The answer is simple: the same as what those of us who have actually studied nutrition and dietetics have been saying for eons. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit. Add to this some wholegrain and high-fibre carbohydrates (wholegrain breads, brown rice, wholewheat pasta etc). Include some lean protein, which can be from animal sources such as lean red meat, fish, eggs, and/or plant sources such as pulses, Quorn, tofu, nuts and seeds. Choose lower-fat dairy foods like skimmed milk. And have just small amounts of fats that come from sources such as olive and rapeseed oil and, again, nuts and seeds. Bob’s your healthy uncle.
The stuff we don’t need
Sugar-rich and fat-rich foods like cakes, biscuits, puddings, sweets, sugary drinks and so on aren’t needed in our diets. Neither are fat-laden takeaways, pies, pizzas, big slabs of cheddar, full-on fry-ups every day or lashings of cream. All these should (if consumed at all) be eaten occasionally and in small amounts. No properly qualified nutritionist or dietitian, whoever they work for, has argued – or ever would argue – with this.
It really doesn’t get any more complex, and it’s a message that has just been reinforced, yet again, in the re-vamped Eatwell Guide.
Did the Department of Health get it wrong?
Anyone or any organisation who tells you that the government’s healthy eating advice in the past was based on the idea that you should only have been eating low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets based on lots of sugary and processed starches clearly hasn’t done their homework. It’s just not true.
At no point has anyone at the Department of Health told us to gorge on low-fat, sugar-rich ice cream, sweets or honey-coated breakfast cereals!
The message that we should all be eating a healthy, balanced diet (as per the Eatwell Guide) has been reinforced for decades. The reason our nation has, in spite of this, got fatter and our rates of type 2 diabetes and numerous other obesity-related problems soared is not because the advice is incorrect, but because only 5% of the population actually follow it.
And guess what? Those who do have a lower body weight and better health outcomes.
So why has the message got lost?
The problem is not in the advice we’re giving, it’s in how it’s being communicated. And this is what nutritionists, dietitians and researchers from a wide range of faculties including psychologists, should be concentrating our efforts on.
And that includes doctors, who have a real interest in patient health and public wellbeing. We don’t need to muddy the waters and cause confusion – it’s time to help the wider public understand that for most of us the answer is simple.
At the moment, there’s no change in dietary advice from the UK government and there are no moves towards advocating or promoting a low-carb/high-fat diet. Which is why, at Healthy Food Guide, we continue to create recipes that follow official recommendations for a healthy, balanced diet.
How to manage your weight and lower your risk of bad health
Number one: take note of the Eatwell Guide. Number two: apply its advice using sensible portion sizes. Do this and you will almost inevitably lose any excess weight and improve your health prospects. It really is that simple. And it was really ever thus.
Article kindly provided by Healthy Food Guide.