Food Choices to Fight Fat

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would know that, as a population, Australia is not doing so well in terms of healthy weight. Two out of every three Australians are either overweight or obese. Since 1995, the number of adults classified as either overweight or obese has risen 10 per cent. While the figures show that in the past two decades more women have joined the ranks of the overweight or obese (12 per cent increase compared to 8 per cent for men), they had a gap to close in comparison to men. The overall situation is worse for men, with 70 per cent being overweight or obese compared to 56 per cent of women.

Why should you care? Obesity, second only to smoking, is the most significant contributor to diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, high levels of unhealthy cholesterol, gall bladder disease, arthritis, fatty liver disease, and some cancers.

So what can you do to improve your health to be considered within the healthy weight? Below are some of the tips and strategies you can use at home, when dining out, and during day-to-day activities to help your waistline and overall health.

Liquid sugar consumption

Let’s begin by talking about liquid calories. Too many of us think drinks don’t have any impact on our waistline, but the hard fact is they do! Drinking your calories is an easy way to give your body too much energy, as drinks often leave you feeling hungry and make it harder to maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, the sugar in these energy-rich drinks can harm the enamel on your teeth. So what can you do?

First, it is important to know what to look for and how much sugar you should try to limit yourself to each day. It is recommended to have no more than 10 per cent of total daily energy (kilojoules or calories) from sugar — this is the same as 12.5 teaspoons of sugar for a 2000-calorie or 8364-kilojoule diet.

For many people, it isn’t too hard to consume this amount of sugar in one sitting — or even one drink — as the accompanying list of beverages and roughly how many teaspoons of sugar they contain shows.

How much sugar are you drinking?

•   Iced teas (355ml) –> 8 teaspoons

•   Juice pops (355ml) –> 10 teaspoons

•   Energy drinks (500ml) –> 14 teaspoons

•   Speciality coffee (473ml) –>17 teaspoons

•   Sweetened bubble Tea (500ml) –> 21 teaspoons

•   Large slushie (1L) –> 24 teaspoons

Sugar can also be labelled as brown, cane and beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, sucrose, fruit juice concentrates, honey, molasses, maltodextrin, agave syrup, malt syrup, maple syrup, and syrup — just to make things more confusing! When reading the nutrition panel on the back of the product, aim for no more than 15g of sugar per 100g, as well as taking note of how high up the list any sugar ingredients are, as the ingredients are listed from the largest amount of an ingredient present to the least.

Ways to reduce sugar in your drinks

Drink water instead; it’s a no brainer! Not only is water important to keep your body functioning optimally, but it also assists in helping to reach or maintain a healthy weight, as often we mistake hunger for thirst. Drinking 1.8 to 2.5 litres (or six to eight glasses) of water a day can help you to feel fantastic without added unwanted energy and sugar to your body.

That said, there are times when we don’t feel like water, and this is completely understandable. Here are some useful tips to help reduce the sugar you drink:

  • Try drinking tea with no added sugar or using a natural sweetener such as stevia instead of store-bought iced tea, which can be loaded with sugar.
  • If you drink coffee, select a coffee with no added sugar, syrups, or whipped cream and try adding cinnamon or nutmeg for flavour or sweetness instead.
  • Try sparkling mineral water with some lemon and mint leaves to add flavour instead of water with added powdered drink mix or cordial.
  • Choose plain milk or soy drinks over sugar drinks or flavoured milks.
  • Limit your juice intake to a maximum of 125ml (half a cup) of 100 per cent fruit juice, with no added sugar, a day. Juice can contain almost as much sugar as soft drinks and often without a lot of the beneficial nutrients whole fruit provides your body.

Do-it-yourself meals

Second, the role of your environment and the choices you make away from home can play a huge role in maintaining a healthy weight. Remember back to the good old days when you were at school? If you were like me, most days you brought your lunch and were also expected to prepare it. Yes, it may have been a simple sandwich and muesli bar from the cupboard, but I knew if there was no packing of lunch in the morning, there would be no lunch that day.

As we get older and can afford to eat out or buy lunch on the go, initially this may seem like a good thing, but we are limiting our choices to what the cafes and restaurants decide to serve. On top of this, we do not get to choose the ingredients to make the meal or snack and rarely get to choose the serving size.

Over time, eating out can cost not only our back pocket, but the size of our waistline! So here are four strategies to save you money, improve the variety of the foods you eat, and increase the enjoyment of bringing your lunch and snacks to work:

1.   Make a date with your supermarket

There are new products being brought out all the time in supermarkets. Set yourself time once every month or so to explore what is available; you may surprise yourself with what you can find.

2.   Do some homework on balanced meal and healthy snack ideas

I recommend checking out the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and/or seeing a dietitian to help you create balanced meal choices based on your individual needs and likes and dislikes.

3.   Make a list

Set one day a week to prepare a list and buy the types of meals and snacks you want. This could include exploring the Internet or magazines for ideas; there is so much out there!

4.   Meal prep

I recommend making a few lunch options for the week and freezing them in ready-to-go packages. Examples could be lentil soup, chicken stir-fry, or taco bean mix. Then simply add the wholegrain bread and/or salad mix as part of your lunchbox. Yes, it can seem tedious, but you will save yourself time by not having to prepare the entire meal each day.

Prepare yourself to succeed! Over time it will become part of your lifestyle and habits.

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