Nutrition and creating healthy dietary habits

We’ve now had Christmas, New Year’s celebrations, summer parties and hopefully the good old Aussie BBQ – it’s never an easy time of year for healthy eating. That’s fine. You should be able to enjoy your social time, but now time to consider the basics of nutrition and its importance for getting you more out life. Nutrition is a broader term that describes the nutrients required for the body to function and sustain life, which involves consideration of what food is and its affect on the body. Diet simply refers to all nutrients consumed, individual food habits and choices. Yes, choices. What we eat, our diet, is varied given different environments and cultural influences but nutrition is somewhat constant. From now on, and if you aren’t already doing so, I’d encourage you to consider food from the perspective of what the body needs.

Ok, so good nutrition is a widely-debated topic in the scientific field but it doesn’t hurt to have a quick search on what macro and micro nutrients the body utilises, how they are processed and why we need them. We’ll cover this further down the track and post topics that probe deeper into nutrition. For example, how the body processes carbohydrates (CHO), cellular responses to glucose and key topics such as gluconeogenesis (making sugar) and ketogenesis (burning fat). In terms of sport nutritions and performance, I’ve come across some great resources and whether you are training or not suggest you take a look at fact sheets from the Australian Institute of Sport on CHO and protein. What also complicates nutrition is the notion that in sport and fitness, increasing physical activity relies on synergy or equilibrium between energy input and energy expenditure and we will return to this later.

With nutrition, a complicated topic, we turn to more basic dietary guidelines. Yes, dietary guidelines have traditionally been hard to follow, new evidence often supersedes old, industry influences what evidence guided research we have and it’s all just very confusing, I know. Reviews of dietary guidelines are quick to flag their inconsistencies, but for our sake, a fairly reasonable overview of daily nutrition is made available by the NHMRC Australian Dietary Guidelines. Believe me, there are plenty of things that I wouldn’t take as doctrine, but to have a guideline means we have a reference point. Just look and see what opinions of your own you form. I will be commenting on basic guidelines of my own in the future but drawing on dietary guidelines and popular diets such as Paleo or the Ketogenic diet we are sure to learn and can utilise this to make more informed decisions ourselves. I’d be well off, if I put down a dollar every time I hear people comment that they train so hard but don’t quite get the results they’d like and after sitting down together you realise that nutrition is often the culprit. Be sure to get your nutrition knowledge on point. Are you making changes to your dietary habits that will reinforce good nutrition every day? A nutritionally balanced diet includes all food groups in moderation. Simple strategies of limiting sugar and refined carbohydrates whilst increasing wholesome foods such as dark green vegetables is a good start. Need more now? In simple terms, cut out C.R.A.P – carbonated drink, refined carbohydrate and sugar, artificial products and processed products.

A last word on nutrition- an important and lengthy topic that will be discussed in much greater detail later on, but I want to draw your attention to devising a simple food diary (even for just a short period of time), particularly if you struggle to make the change. See the BodiFit site for a simple Food Diary – this is all you need, don’t overcomplicate it. Keeping a food diary can help you to stay accountable to eat well and can help monitor timing of meals and snacks. If you start to notice a pattern of binge eating at a time of day, consider the effects on metabolic processes and how you might substitute C.R.A.P snacks for healthier options such as fruit, vegetables and lean proteins. While difficult to gauge due to different energy requirements, calculating your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the minimal energy requirement needed to sustain life in a resting individual, is still very useful. Consider BMR as the amount of energy your body would burn if you slept all day (24 hours). There are several things that affect BMR, such as age, height, stress level, temperature, and so in practice corrections need to be made, however this is useful as a guide and gives context next time someone tells me that they ate poorly, so they knowingly must train that bit harder! BMR is determined by body weight in kg multiplied by (male) 24 kcal/ (female) 22 kcal. You can then determine your ideal energy intake using the Nutrient Reference Values to identify Physical Activity Level (PAL) multiplied by individual BMR. This will give you a fair idea of the number of calories you need a day. While I’m not a fan of calorie counting and dieting, understanding BMR, physical activity and energy expenditure is important.

Lastly, a simple idea but very important one – around 70% of our body is made up of water and this is clearly essential for the body to function correctly, transport nutrients and oxygen around the body and such processes as digestion, circulation and the excretion and elimination of toxins and waste. Keep up your water consumption for good health, particularly in these warmer Australian summer months.

Thanks to those people who have been letting me know you’re getting through the daily posts and I trust you are starting to get the gist of #lovelife. I’m hugely motivated by your interest, open-mind, determination and enthusiasm to give things a go and create a supportive community. I made the plunge and started using the Leah Dansie Instagram and facebook account so if you are the social media type hope to see you there. Any queries however you know how to contact me on this site.


Newsletter: Sign up to receive a summary of key research topics, access to useful resources on health, fitness and general well-being and for updates and information on upcoming community events.