Jacky’s Nutrition Spot – Food choices, part one

1280px-Vegetables_-_Viktualienmarkt_-_DSC08608In terms of knowing which foods to choose we are often under the misapprehension that certain foods are ‘bad’ and therefore we feel guilty if we eat them. Nothing is ‘bad’ for you (unless it is poisonous or you are allergic to it) but often there may be a better choice.

This guide will give you ideas as to which foods may be better choices than others. Having said that I think it is vital to accept that we all have cravings for treats and that this needs to be taken into account and incorporated sensibly into your eating strategy. A degree of common sense is also needed as if your entire eating strategy comprises of treats then you may need to review it!

Saviour foods

There is no escaping the fact that veggies will be your saviour if you are trying to improve your eating habits. Packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and anti-oxidants they carry very few calories on the whole. Because of this a dish or meal full of veggies means you can have a big plateful of food without piling on the pounds. The recipes given later in this guide marked (S) are made mainly with veg only and so you can eat these to your heart’s content.

Diet foods and drinks

A lot of people consume ‘diet’ versions of food and drinks but research has shown that this may not actually help with weight loss. Although these foods may have fewer calories they usually involve replacing sugar with a sweetener and this is where it can all go wrong. Part of the mechanism that tells us when to stop eating is the messages received by the brain from various receptors in the mouth and gut. Sugar is easily detected so the brain knows about this; however sweeteners are not recognised in the same way so the brain doesn’t get a clear idea of what has been eaten. Because of this, a meal containing a lot of artificially sweetened products can often leave a person feeling unsatisfied and still hungry.

If you have experience of this it may be better to wean yourself off diet drinks and stick to plain or fizzy water and to look at changing to regular foods too just with a smaller portion. Remember you can always add more veg to bulk out a main meal.

‘Food choices’ is continued next week with a look at food labels.

Jacqueline Bretherton (BSc, MSc, R.Nutr) and Nutritionist at the Centre for Sport

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