Foods that are not so bad for us after all!
When it comes to foods and nutrition, the goal posts are constantly moving – one week pasta is good for you, next we should only eat it after 5. One week dairy is a no go, the next we need it for calcium. Then breakfast cereals are too sugary but then if we don’t eat any cereal we are not getting the fibre we need for gut health. Is it any wonder we are confused? So here is an update on where the science is up to with some of the big food groups so you can make an informed decision about what is right for you.
Poor old pasta has copped a beating for some time and whilst our friends in Europe seem to be able to enjoy it aplenty for Aussies it is readily demonised. While there is nothing specifically wrong with pasta, it is a relatively high carbohydrate food with almost 40g carbs per ½ cup cooked serve and as we tend to eat massive portions of it along with plenty of oil and cheese it can equate to a complete calorie overload. On the other hand if you instead go for a controlled portion of plain pasta, or better still one of the new high protein, lower carb varieties along with a light sauce it can be a filling, nutritious meal choice. If though you prefer a lower carb approach, look out for the new Slendier ranges which have literally no carbs in these vege based pasta alternatives.
With the increasing interest in plant based and vegan diets, there is constant debate over how much meat we should eat should we choose to include it in our diet. Indeed it is true that there is a far greater energy cost associated with meat production which in turn has environmental consequences but largely it is a personal choice on whether you choose to eat meat or not, and how often you choose to eat it. If you are happy to include some meat as part of a balanced lifestyle the key is to choose the best types of lean protein and enjoy them in portion controlled serves 3-4 times each week. Where we go wrong here in Australia is that our portions of meat are massive, not the 100-150g we actually need and as such simply limiting your meat portions can significantly reduce your overall intake, as can including a plant based meal in your diet a couple of times each week. When it comes to choosing the right types of meat, where possible source organic, local produce and keep your intake of cured and processed meats to a minimum.
Bread, like pasta cops a beating on most diets for being too heavy and one of the key foods you need to get rid of to lose weight. Quite possibly bread cops it for the company it keeps with lashings of butter and spreads adding a whole lot more calories than a small humble slice does. As is the case with most foods is comes down to the type you choose and indeed if your preference is Turkish or massive slices of Sourdough you will be consuming significantly more carbohydrates. On the other hand if you are fussy and stick to just a slice or two of lower carbohydrate or the newer high protein breads you will have nothing to worry about.
Rice unlike bread or even pasta is a carbohydrate with a relatively high GI meaning it results in rapid increases in blood glucose levels. A simple carbohydrate, a single cup of cooked rice contains at least 45g of total carbohydrates, the equivalent of up to 4 slices of bread. For this reason keeping our white rice intake to a minimum is a good choice nutritionally and instead opting for higher fibre options such as brown or black rice. There are some new lower GI rice varieties but these do lack the fibre of other wholegrain carbs so still go easy with your serving sizes.
The simple potato has been rather poorly treated considering a whole potato contains just 100 calories, 20g of carbs and plenty of fibre and B group vitamins. If you consume your potatoes whole with a jacket on they are a great choice nutritionally but when we eat them fried or mashed with lashings of oil and butter therein lies the problem with potatoes. If you want to be really picky with your carbs you could try the new Spud Lite potatoes that contain 25% fewer carbs per 100g but to be honest including a potato a day in your diet only adds positive nutritional attributes.
Full cream milk
Chances are the debate between full cream and low fat milk will continue for some time and with a shift towards natural whole food eating, the argument for everything full cream is regularly bandied about. One of the reasons that a blanket recommendation for Australians to enjoy low and reduced fat milks is that per serve full cream milk offers a hearty dose of saturated fat. As Aussies already get plenty of saturated fat thanks to their high intake of meat, dairy and processed food, it was argued that milk was one place we could afford to get rid of some. There is nothing wrong with full cream milk but it does offer 10g of fat (compared to <1g in low fat milk) per glass and this can add up. So if you don’t consume much dairy, full cream is fine. On the other hand if you prefer the taste of low fat, or want to keep your calorie and fat intake low, low fat milk is a nutrient rich choice and contrary to popular belief does not contain more sugar than full cream milk.
When carbs got the chop so too did every breakfast cereal in the aisle and as is the case with all food groups there are great cereals and not so great options. Indeed any heavily processed flake, bite, crisp or bubble tends to offer little nutritionally and are much lower in fibre and wholegrains than you would want your breakfast cereal to be. On the other hand you cannot go past whole oats, bran based and mixed grain mueslis that contain little to no added sugar which add a range of key nutrients into our diets including good quality fibre that many Aussies lack. The key is portion control and to always team your breakfast cereal with a protein rich food such as Greek yoghurt or milk.