No tricks, just healthy eating

When it comes to achieving a healthy body weight, there are no tricks, rules, diets or nutritional products that guarantee success.

To achieve a healthy body weight, there are no tricks, rules, diets or nutritional products that guarantee success.

When it comes to achieving a healthy body weight, there are no tricks, rules, diets or nutritional products that guarantee success in the long-term.

We’re all different – our genes, body composition, taste preferences, budgets and cultural practices so what works for you, may not work for your partner, friend or colleague.

We all know that eating well is associated with health benefits such as increased life expectancy and reduced risk of chronic disease – but is there just one way to eat well?

Different dietary patterns (diets) often share ideas or elements that are associated with healthy eating. For example, encouraging whole plant foods (including plenty of vegetables and fruit) and limiting refined grains, added sugar and heavily processed foods.

If we focus on the consistent themes of healthy eating, we can each apply them in the way that suits us best, and without the need to go to extremes.

Based on the latest scientific evidence, the Ministry of Health recently released a set of guideline statements for New Zealand adults on eating well and being physically active. Unlike rules, which prescribe what someone can and can’t do, the statements encourage a dietary pattern which is flexible and healthy. They allow you to choose your own foods and can be tailored to suit your lifestyle.

Here they are:

1. Enjoy a variety of nutritious foods every day including:

  • plenty of vegetables and fruit
  • grain foods, mostly whole grain and those naturally high in fibre
  • some milk and milk products, mostly low and reduced fat
  • some legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and other seafood, eggs, poultry (e.g., chicken) and/or red meat with the fat removed.

2. Choose and/or prepare foods and drinks:

  • with unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats
  • that are low in salt (sodium); if using salt, choose iodised salt
  • with little or no added sugar
  • that are mostly ‘whole’ and less processed.

3. Make plain water your first choice over other drinks.

4. If you drink alcohol, keep your intake low. Stop drinking alcohol if you could be pregnant, are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant.

5. Buy or gather, prepare, cook and store food in ways that keep it safe to eat.

Remember, to lead a healthy lifestyle, nutrition and physical activity come hand-in-hand. Over the past few decades, Kiwis are sitting more and moving less due to changes in our environment and social norms. The Ministry of Health Eating and Activity Guidelines also remind us about the importance of breaking up long periods of sitting and encourage regular movement throughout the day.

So is there one particular way to eat well?

No. Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight long-term starts with making wise choices around what you eat and drink and how you move – in a style that works for you.