Are diets really the best way to good health?

Woman eating saladOne of the more popular types of New Year resolution is the vow to start a new diet/lose weight/be healthier this year and at any point in time a number of Kwis are on a diet. But – can you really diet your way to good health?

According to Dieticians NZ Inc spokesperson, NZ Registered Dietician and founder of Metro Consultancy Ltd Amy Liu, taking a longer-term approach to healthy food choices, along with regular exercise, will achieve a better long-term result.

“Fad diets are popular for those wanting to lose weight quickly but may have many health implications in the long term, from temporary shift of fluid, increased risk of chronic diseases to permanent kidney failure,” she explains. “A lot of these diets are not backed up with research and promoted by celebrities funded to sell the product/diet.  The best way to lose weight and keep the weight off is by making healthy food choices, involving whole nutrient-dense foods with good portion control, along with regular physical activity.”

Reassuringly, the changes don’t need to be extreme and can be designed to fit with your lifestyle. Ms Liu suggests small changes such as increasing your water intake, being mindful about the snacks that you eat and taking the time to savour your food. “Follow the 5 plus a day – two servings of fruit (healthy snack when hungry) and three serves (fist size) of colourful vegetables,” suggests Ms Liu. “Aim to have eight glasses of water per day – one before every meal helps – and never go shopping on an empty stomach. Also slow down when eating – aim to have your meal in 20-30 minutes.”

If you are looking to lose weight, be realistic about the amount that you should lose each week. While a fad diet might see you lose a large amount of weight in a short period of time, this may well simply be loss of fluid and may return when you revert to a normal eating routine. “Aim for 0.5-1kg per week (of weight loss) but remember to review your progress with your dietician as you might need to rethink your goals as you lose weight,” says Ms Liu. “The same applies for exercise as you get fitter; you might need to rechallenge yourself with harder-to-achieve goals.”

If you need encouragement or inspiration, check out some of the recipes on the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation’s Just Cook website, or even check out the many nutrition factsheets available here.

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