wellness

'Bread isn't evil.' The 7 things a dietitian wants you to know.

With the abundance of nutrition misinformation available online, I wanted to collate a list of seven things that I want you to know as a dietitian. 

These are common topics I come across day-to-day in my field of work that unfortunately continue to be confusing areas for many clients to navigate.

1. You should never feel guilty about eating food.

Unless you stole that chocolate, you shouldn't feel guilty about eating it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: All foods can fit as a part of a healthy diet. This includes what I like to term 'soul foods.' These are foods which aren't particularly nutritious but bring us pleasure (and are hence good for the soul).

Generally, soul foods include options like chocolate, wine, chips, baked goods, ice cream, etc. Usually when people feel guilty about eating these foods, it's because they're intentionally restricting them or have labelled them as 'bad' or 'unhealthy'. Yes, if you solely eat a diet of chocolate, wine, chips and ice cream, that probably will not end well. However, allowing yourself permission to enjoy these foods twice per week, or even a small amount per day, is part of a having a healthy diet and, importantly, a healthy relationship with food.

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2. Fruit isn't evil.

Yes, fruit contains sugar. No fruit isn’t evil.

Fruit is packed full of various micronutrients, antioxidants and is an excellent source of fibre. This makes it beneficial for gut health, skin health and inflammation. Fruit typically gets demonised for its sugar content. The sugar content in fruit is naturally occurring and is a mix of fructose, sucrose and glucose. The fructose component of fruit has people running to the fruit shop with pitch forks. Yes, excess fructose can have negative health consequences, but it would be extremely difficult to consume excess fructose from fruit. It's also important to note that the research around negative impacts of excess sugars are from 'free sugars', not those naturally occurring in fruit. 

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So, please enjoy your two serves of fruit each day knowing it’s excellent for your health and ignore anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.

3. Bread isn't evil either.

While we're on a roll with 'evil' foods, let’s talk about bread. Bread would easily be one of the most common foods I see clients cut out or avoid because they've heard it's 'unhealthy'.

Wholegrain bread is an excellent source of fibre and is a source of prebiotics, which act as fuel for our gut bacteria. Wholegrain bread also provides a sustained energy release, helping with concentration and energy levels. If you need more convincing, whole grains have been associated with reduced risk of various chronic diseases and have been linked to positive fertility benefits.

My fellow bread lovers can now breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy a delicious slice of wholegrain bread.  

4. Don't choose dark chocolate if you don't enjoy it.

One of the most common follow-on statements I hear when a client says they eat chocolate is:
"But it’s dark chocolate!"

Yes, dark chocolate is nutritionally superior to its milk and white counterparts, namely because of its antioxidant content. But really, who is consuming chocolate for its health benefits? Whilst dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, so are fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, to name a few. 

At the end of the day, chocolate is a food we consume for pleasure. So, if you don’t like the taste of dark chocolate, swap to the type of chocolate you prefer. You will get the most satisfaction out of choosing the variety which you enjoy the most. If you truly prefer dark chocolate, then the additional antioxidants are just a bonus.

5. Don't weigh yourself daily.

For most people, weighing yourself daily is completely unnecessary and potentially harmful. Our weight can fluctuate significantly day to day depending on various factors such as salt intake, carbohydrate intake, whether we’ve gone to the toilet, fluid intake, and hormonal factors (especially around menstruation). These daily fluctuations purely come down to water weight and gut contents, not true weight change. 

Not only is weighing yourself daily not accurate, but it can also negatively impact your mood. For many people, that number on the scales dictates what mood they’re going to be in that day. Therefore, I and so many other dietitians prefer to focus on health behaviours, not weight itself. If you choose to weigh yourself, once per week or fortnight is plenty.

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Listen to What I Eat When is a Mamamia podcast that’s all about meals, moments, and memories, because every meal tells a story. Post continues after podcast.


6. You probably don’t need a probiotic supplement.

Probiotic supplements have certainly grown in popularity in recent years. But is a probiotic supplement necessary? If it's for general health or general gut health, probably not.

Focusing on improving your gut health through increasing intake of a variety of prebiotic rich foods such as legumes, onion, garlic, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and whole grains is likely far more beneficial than popping a probiotic. There are certain conditions where specific strains of probiotics may be beneficial, but choosing the correct strain and dosage is important.

In these situations, it's best to seek advice from an accredited practising dietician.

7. Dieticians are not the food police.

Dieticians, unfortunately, have a stereotype of being the 'food police', which can prevent people from seeing a dietician due to fear of judgement. Now, I understand I'm bias, but believe me when I say we are far from the 'food police'. Most dieticians get into the profession because they're empathetic and want to help people.

We understand the complexities behind food choices and food behaviours, and as a result are the last people to ever judge you on your food or lifestyle choices. I think I speak for most dieticians when I say I don't care what's in your trolley at the supermarket, I won't deprive you of your favourite foods (if anything I'll encourage less restriction around those) and I will not judge you.

As many of these are complex topics, it is important to seek individualised advice from an accredited practising dietician to work out the approach which is best for you.

Amanda Smith is an accredited practising dietician and a certified fertility dietician at Verde Nutrition Co. You can follow her on Instagram here.

Feature Image: Canva. 

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