13 common diet and health questions answered by dietitian Susie Burrell.

Image: iStock. 

Some days I wake up and am incapacitated by all the wrong information, to a point where I don’t know what to eat, what exercise to do and when and how much water to drink and why.

Here at The Glow we like to think we have all the answers, but even as a health and beauty site, we get confused by the sheer wealth of information coming our way – much of it contradictory. So we contacted one of our favourite dieticians, Susie Burrell, who took the time to answer them all.

1. Do we really need to eat breakfast?

As a general rule of thumb, breakfast will help to kick start the metabolism after the overnight fast and research suggests that those who do not eat breakfast tend to eat more later in the day. In saying that, if you have had a massive meal the night before, there will be no harm done from not eating again until you are really hungry.”

2. Which meal should really be the biggest of the day?

“This is a personal opinion rather than scientific one but I think lunch – it is the longest period between lunch and dinner; it means your dinner eaten later at night can be smaller and you will then be less likely to snack throughout the day. This also works well for many of us who simply do not have time for big breakfasts.”

3. Does celery reeealllly have negative calories?

“It’s hard to say but they’re minimal to say the least. With just 15 calories per chopped cup it’s safe to say you could eat as much celery as you wanted to without ever gaining weight.”

4. Do calories really matter?

“Yes, it always comes down to calories in versus calories out. Sure some calories are better quality than others but ultimately it comes down to how much and how efficiently we are burning calories.” (Post continues after gallery)

5. Does vodka really have zero calories?

“No not at all, it contains the same number of calories per gram as any other type of alcohol but as we tend to mix vodka with low cal mixers such as soda water, overall it has one of the lowest calorie contents than other mixed drinks.”

6. Does it really matter if we have carbs after 7pm?

“It’s not so much the carbs but the quantities of calorie-dense carbs we eat before sitting down to enjoy more treats, like wine, etc. It is all about portion control for example, a single potato contains 20g of carbs vs. two cups of rice which will give 90g of carbs. Naturally this is less likely to be burnt off so it is about matching the carbs you consume to your activity levels but no there is no set time when we must stop consuming carbs.”

7. Do you really have to wait an hour to swim after eating?

“There is no set time, but when we have eaten blood flow has been redirected somewhat to the stomach so physically you are unlikely to be at your best until 40 to 60 minutes after a meal.”

8. How many meals should we eat in a day?

“It depends – ideally we need three to four hours in between meals so for most people this means four meals (breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner). For others who wake and eat early, maybe five but the more meals, the smaller they need to be.” (Post continues after gallery)


9. Do we really have to exercise on an empty stomach?

“If there is no fuel available, yes it is true that the body will rely on fat stores but this is a short term process only and does not account for the fact that when we are exercising at a high intensity for long periods of time, we will burn more fat in total when carbs are available. This means if you are walking for 30 minutes you will burn slightly more fat on an empty stomach but if you are going to bootcamp for an hour you will burn more calories and more fat with some fuel on board.”

10. How big of a role does gut bacteria play in the absorption of nutrients?

“We are learning more about this area and my answer would be much more than we even realise.”

So not exactly zero... but still good! Image: iStock.

11. Do we really need to eat foods "raw"?

“It's important to remember that nutrient absorption can be greater when some fresh foods including vegetables are heated, as their cell wall softens releasing more nutrients.”

12. Does drinking protein shakes or having protein balls after the gym really help your muscles recover?

“It can but the muscles need both protein and carbs to recover hence a whey protein shake with a banana offers both of these nutrients.”

13. How super are 'super foods'?

“Superfoods can be defined as containing a concentrated amount of key nutrients, there are many fresh foods that could fit this description.”

Do you have any diet and exercise questions you’d like answered once and for all? Find out more at