The Inside Knowledge on Healthy Nutrition

If you find yourself confused by the idea of what healthy nutrition is, you're not alone. Fortunately, nutrition is not as hard to get to grips with as it might seem.

What are Healthy Foods?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines are the best nutrition resource for finding out what healthy foods are. If you're looking to improve your health or your weight, live longer and feel more energised, these guidelines will set you on the right path. They're your nutrition bible!

As well as letting you know whether your weight is within a healthy range, the guidelines also set out how much exercise to do each day and which foods will offer you a healthy way to reach your goals and enjoy optimal nutrition.

See what they have to say and how good nutrition can benefit you in Healthy Foods: The Building Blocks of Life.

Avoid Refined and Processed Foods

These days convenience has become a huge factor in what we eat. We want foods that can be microwaved or have had much of the preparation already done for us.

Sadly, this means that a lot of the food we buy has been so highly refined and processed that a lot of its natural goodness has seemingly evaporated. It's almost as if most of its nutrition has been sucked right out of it, so refined, processed food is best avoided as much as possible.

However, you can learn to recognise which foods to limit and which ones to add to your "healthy nutrition" basket. Find out how by reading our article on refined foods.

Whole Foods are Your Friends!

If it's best to avoid refined and processed foods, what can you replace them with? Welcome to the world of whole foods!

The great thing about whole foods is that they typically contain fewer calories than refined or processed foods and yet they're often packed with far more nutrients. That means we can eat a lot more of them and gain far more benefits for our nutrition from far fewer calories.

Whole foods include things like: fresh meat and fish; fresh fruit and veggies; wholemeal bread and pasta; brown rice and so on. Learn more about why whole foods are so healthy in our article Why Whole Foods are Important.

Should I go Low Carb?

You may have heard a lot of talk about how cutting carbohydrates from your diet can help you lose weight quickly. So should you do it?

According to 12WBT dietitian Lisa Donaldson, the short answer is no! She explains that while you may experience a short-term drop in weight, the chances of that weight staying off for long aren't high. And from a health and nutrition point of view, you won't be doing yourself any favours at all.

You can read Lisa's wise words on how important carbs are in Why Low-Carb Diets Aren't the Answer.

Healthy Nutrition for Vegetarians

To many people the word "vegetarian" automatically means "healthy". But deciding to go vegetarian isn't simply a question of cutting out meat and fish and hoping you'll still gain all your essential nutrients from everything else you eat.

Just as meat and fish eaters need to think carefully about what kinds of food they're consuming and how to maintain good nutrition, so do vegetarians. They need to consider the best ways to fulfil their need for protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and so on.

Our article on creating a healthy vegetarian diet explains how to gain the most from going meat-free.

The High Risks of High-Protein

In the same way that low-carb diets are touted as a fast way to lose weight, miraculous claims are also made about high-protein diets. But 12WBT's lead dietitian, Georgie Moore, says they are best avoided, because they can be detrimental to our health and nutrition.

As Georgie explains in The Problem With High-Protein Diets, eating too much protein for a prolonged period can lead to health problems such as heart disease as well as lack of concentration, moodiness and low blood sugar levels.

Georgie outlines how much protein we need and how to make it a balanced part of your daily nutrition.

The Dangers of a Very Low Calorie Diet

Any diet that restricts your food intake to 800 calories a day (or less) comes into the category of a very low calorie diet. It may consist of a "formula", such as a liquid shake, a snack bar or a soup that you consume regularly as a meal replacement, or it may be one of the fad diets that rely on eating only one type of food. These include the Cabbage Soup Diet and Grapefruit Diet.

The trouble is, very low calorie diets come with problems and can be very damaging for our health and nutrition. It seems they're not the best way to achieve a healthy weight loss, and even the best of them should be undertaken only under strict medical supervision.

So, if you've been thinking of trying one, don't go ahead without reading about the danger of very low calorie diets first.

Should you go Gluten-Free?

Gluten intolerance and coeliac disease are serious problems, and if you do have symptoms it's vital to get tested. If not, though, gluten in whole foods is a healthy source of protein and fibre and is a useful element in our nutrition.

However, refined gluten seems to be everywhere - it's added to foods as a separate ingredient to make pasta springy and rubbery, gravy gluey and candy bars chewy.

Gluten-free products are often touted as being super-healthy, but should we be cutting back even if we're not gluten-intolerant? Our article on whether you need to go gluten-free will help you decide.