Dietary mistakes you could be making

3rd May 2021 | Gabrielle Newman

Making poor food choices can be a sign that things are a bit out of kilter in your life. We often turn to food as a source of comfort, or simply just for something to do. Whether it’s due to not really understanding healthy options or needing help to be accountable, easy-to-remember guidelines can help you stay on track. Perhaps you’re the type of person who needs a step-by-step program, or a personal health coach to help you navigate your food choices and why you make the choices you do. Others just need a gentle reminder of healthy eating habits. Here are some of the more common dietary mistakes people tend to make, often without even realising they’re doing anything wrong.

Give it a break while you sleep: try to eat dinner early and your body will thank you.

Eating too late

For busy mums and those with high-pressure jobs who spend a lot of late nights at work, having dinner too late can lead to stacking on the kilos. Eating late at night (yes, even that sneaky snack in front of the TV once the kids are in bed) disrupts your sleep, because your digestive system is working overtime, trying to churn through that food before your head hits the pillow. While you sleep, the body needs to devote a certain amount of time to repair and maintenance. Critically, this can’t take place while you’re also digesting food. Finishing your last meal at least three hours before bed allows your body to digest effectively and produce the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.

Twelve-week online program The Fast 800 recommends allowing a minimum of 12 hours between your last meal of the day and the next time you eat. This is known as intermittent fasting. There’s plenty of research into the benefits of intermittent fasting, such as weight loss, reversing type 2 diabetes and reducing inflammation and blood pressure.

The king of all dietary patterns: the Mediterranean diet still reigns supreme.

Yo-yo dieting

Bouncing from diet plan to diet plan and depriving your body of certain food groups isn’t sustainable. It can lead to weight gain (rather than the loss you were aiming for), mood swings and feelings of missing out when celebrations and events roll around. It’s important to choose a style of eating that’s achievable and can become a way of life, such as the Mediterranean-style diet, not just a “quick fix”. Depriving yourself is setting yourself up for failure, which means you’re more likely to give in to cravings or binge-eating.

That flavoured yoghurt you love might not be loving you back.

Eating hidden sugars

Refined sugar is often hidden in packaged and processed foods. For example, your favourite flavoured yoghurt is likely to have around 12g of sugar per 100g. If you add that yoghurt to one of your favourite cereals, there’s often hidden sugar in those as well. Then, if you have a glass of juice with that… it’s even more sugar. Ideally, your sugar intake should be less than 10 percent of your total calories – the lower the better. If you eat what we’ve outlined above, you’ve likely come close to that, just at breakfast alone.

It’s easy to see how we inadvertently consume too much. You can cut down the amount of sugar you consume by clearing out the table sugar, replacing sweeteners for less refined options and slowly reducing the overall amount of sugar you’re consuming. Drink water instead of juice or soft drinks. Shop fresh and eat whole foods instead of those that are packaged and processed. Also, beware of processed foods labelled “diet” or “fat-free” – these usually contain extra sugar to make them palatable.

Stop being scared of fats: the right ones are magic for your health.

Assuming all fats are created equal

Just like protein and carbs, fat is needed to help your body absorb vitamins and to protect your heart and brain. Many people avoid fat, thinking it contributes to high cholesterol or weight gain. But not all fats are created equal. Trans fats are the bad guys – they’re linked to heart disease and many other health issues. Good fats like monounsaturated fats found in avocado, nuts, olives and some oils; and polyunsaturated fats like oily fish (salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel) are truly “good”, reducing inflammation and boosting health.

Glug, glug: make regular glasses of water a habit.

Not drinking enough water

Did you know that by the time you feel thirsty you’re already in the stages of being dehydrated? Thirst signals can be weak and often misunderstood for hunger. When you’re dehydrated you may feel lethargic and tired. To gain energy, the brain sends signals which can make you confuse hunger with thirst, ultimately leading to overeating and weight gain.

Gabrielle Newman is a Clinical Nutritionist and the nutritionist and recipe developer for The Fast 800. She has a special interest in weight management, hormonal and metabolic health.

For more about The Fast 800, head to thefast800.com. Always consult your doctor before beginning any diet or fitness regime. Any advice given here is not meant as a substitute for care by your usual health professional and may not be applicable for all individuals.