Confused about what makes a healthy diet? It’s hardly surprising when even the “experts” can’t agree. If you live in the UK you probably saw this story all over the national press on Monday when the National Obesity Forum and Public Health Collaboration accused the nutritional ‘establishment’ of being stuck in the dark ages. Dr Aseem Malhotra, consultant cardiologist and founding member of the Public Health Collaboration, said dietary guidelines promoting low-fat foods were “perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history, resulting in devastating consequences for public health”.
In response to this Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “In the face of all the evidence, calling for people to eat more fat, cut out carbs and ignore calories is irresponsible. Unlike this opinion piece, our independent experts review all the available evidence – often thousands of scientific papers – run full-scale consultations and go to great lengths to ensure no bias.”
Now I’m sure that these academic experts will continue to argue over what is best for us but in the meantime the general public is left feeling confused and uncertain about what they should and shouldn’t be eating.
The current UK guidelines recommend following the Eat Well Plate
Image Source: www.nhs.co.uk
I believe this advice is fundamentally flawed. If you’re getting such a large proportion of your daily calories from processed carbohydrates then, for the majority people, this will lead to weight gain. The evidence is all around us; obesity is a huge problem and whilst we all have to take responsibility for our own health, I believe the Government has an obligation to provide us with the most up to date nutrition information available. The most recent research reveals time and time again that a diet high in starchy carbs and low in fat is perpetuating the obesity problem not helping it.
So what’s the answer? Here are my thoughts.
- Calories DO matter. If you eat too much of anything (fat, carbs or protein) you will get fat. To lose weight you need to be taking in less energy than your expend. However, the quality of your calories is equally important. Different foods will impact your hormonal balance in different ways. For example eating sugar creates a surge of insulin in the body which can lead to energy slumps and increased cravings for more sugar.
- For optimal health we need to eat whole, natural foods 80-90% of the time. That means vegetables, fruits, lean protein, good fats and whole carbohydrates such as potatoes and oats.
- Portion control is very important. Do you have three spoonfuls of mashed potato out of habit or do you need it?
- Eat slowly and eat until you are satisfied not stuffed.
- Get lots of variety in your diet. Eat a rainbow of vegetables, a variety of protein (salmon, chicken, turkey) and fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil).
- Move your body. Not just through exercise but throughout the day by walking as much as possible.
- Reduce your stress levels, get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated – all of this will hugely impact your ability to lose weight.