With so many new diet trends, fads, products and workouts, it’s difficult to wade your way through them all, let alone differentiate between what’s true and what’s not.
Last week as part of Headspace’s Health & Fitness Week we were joined by specialist dietitian Sara Barnett. Dietitians are unique in their field as they base their work on well documented and well-rounded scientific research. Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public health level.
Our Q&A session with Sara was a perfect chance for our members to challenge their current perception of what healthy is. As so many questions were brought to the table, it would be impossible to take you through each one, but here are some of our key highlights:
The Gluten Free Craze
We wanted to tackle fad diets head on, so we started with wondering what was the worst fad phenomenon. Well, if there is one thing that makes a dietitian’s blood boil it’s the gluten-free craze. Now, first and foremost there is nothing wrong with a gluten-free diet for those people who are actually intolerant. But, it might surprise you to know that only 4% of the population are estimated to actually be gluten intolerant and 1% of people suffer from celiac disease. This was quite a lower number than I had expected for such a popular growing trend and something most of us in the audience perceived to be a ‘healthier option’ to combat our bloated tummies.
So what is actually wrong with eating gluten-free products? Well, all the foods that contain gluten also include a huge amount of your fibre. Fibre is a must for a healthy functioning body and plays a huge part in digestion. Not having enough fibre in our diets can cause cardiovascular issues later on, including heart attacks. But in the short term, you’ll notice irregular and painful bowel movements. So not eating enough fibre might be a reason for those longer lasting food babies. When it came to digging down further into product ranges designed as Gluten Free, we discovered that actually, they contain a lot of hidden sugar. Hardly the healthy choice we believed it to be!
It’s hard not to eat something these days which hasn’t been pumped full of sugar. It’s something we are all conscious of, and for the most part we’ve started to steer clear of lots of candies, chocolates and carbonate drinks. But were our healthy swap outs any better… Where is sugar hiding?
Sometimes marketed as a healthy alternative, it’s hard to imagine that we are actually just consuming a different source of sugar, which isn’t actually any better for us. Worst culprits are honeys, maple syrups and date syrups which we are pouring all over our hot drinks and breakfasts. Quite hypocritical as we’ve all told the one person off for having too much sugar in their breakfast tea.
Cereals. No surprise there! Cereals have had a bad rep for a while for their high sugar content. But don’t right them all off yet. Healthy cereals, you know the ones that don’t taste sweet (All Bran, Weetabix) are a really good source of fibre. But be careful of those marketed as healthy cereals and remember if they taste deliciously sweet… it’s too sweet to be true!
Often we think that dried fruits, whether it be some dried apricots, raisins or cranberries are actually much better for us than snacking on a chocolate bar, but in reality they contain just as much sugar. Same goes for that glass of orange juice.
Advice is to stick to good slow releasing energy breakfasts such as jumbo oats porridge. Also be cautious of protein bars, salad dressings and yoghurts, which are all riddled with sugar.
The Working Lunch
With long commutes and longer hours it’s so easy to grab the quickest thing we can find at lunch. Don’t be fooled by sandwiches marketed as ‘healthy’ as there is so little in them, you’ll probably not be full up. But be warned of the luxury sandwiches which have just as many calories as a Big Mac.
Try buying the individual components and making yourself, this will mean a lot less hidden sugars. If you want to prepare your lunch in advance just make an extra portion of last night’s dinner. But if you want to buy out, there is so much choice in the city, go for a salad bar where you can choose the ingredients. It will be fresher and you won’t have any hidden fats or sugars.
Changing Perception Of Health
As a result of scientific research carried out, we have an evolving understanding of health. For example, we now know that food processes differently in our body i.e eating fruit whole metabolises differently to having a fruit smoothie. However, the biggest change over the last decade is our perception of fats. Where we once would have looked at eggs, avocados, oils and nuts as being bad for us because they have high cholesterol, we now know that they will not cause us to have higher cholesterol. In fact they are a great source of healthy fats and protein which will keep us fuller for longer.
You Cant Handle the Truth
The simple fact of the matter is there is no new trick to eating healthily. Following influencers on social media or new diet books appeals to us as this newly revealed secret for the healthiest lifestyle. But, the truth isn’t a secret at all. In fact, we have been ignoring the advice for years.
•Eat a balanced diet
•Don’t cut out food groups
•Reduce excess sugar intake
•Drink Plenty of water (Minimum of 8 glasses a day)
•Cook from scratch as much as possible to avoid added sugar and fats.
If you are interested in finding out more about healthy eating or to start your own health journey please visit Sara’s website (http://www.nutrition-tuition.co.uk/) and the British Dietetic Association.