Are We Taking the Wrong Approach to Dieting?

Co-author: Regina Collins
It appears Australians are fond of dieting, with around 10% of us being on a diet at any given time. But it’s important to look beyond fads and use meal planning (among other strategies) to create healthy eating plans for the future.

Can you diet your way to good health?

Not really. You may be able to diet your way to losing weight, but you can’t diet your way to good health.

According to Professor Clare Collins, Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia and Accredited Practising Dietitian, taking a longer-term approach to healthy eating plans will get a better long-term result.

“Fad diets are often marketed as quick fixes, promising instant results with little effort. But they don’t work in the long term as they are unrealistic and can’t be sustained,” said Professor Collins.

“Sadly, once the diet is stopped, any weight loss is often regained.

“Instead, the crucial first step to permanent weight loss success is taking a longer-term approach to healthy eating. You need to work on making changes in your eating habits that you can live with.”

Reassuringly, the changes don’t need to be large and can be designed to fit with your lifestyle. Professor Collins suggests small changes such as:

Each of these small changes can make a real difference to your weight, which is a big deal! Weight loss can reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, and swapping out junk food for healthier options is something your brain will thank you for.

Aussies are failing the diet grade

The CSIRO has surveyed 86,000 Aussies on their dietary habits – and the news isn’t good. In short, we’re failing the grade (and our waistlines). Read more about it here.


How to use meal planning to create a healthy diet

Meal planning can be one of the easiest ways to ensure that you eat well, so one of the many online resources on offer is a 7-day meal plan. But this begs the question: what do dieticians eat for breakfast?

“My favourite breakfast is similar to day 1 (of the 7 day meal plan),” said Professor Collins.

“I can’t start the day unless I have had my Weet-Bix or Vita Brits, with muesli on top and milk. I add some psyllium for extra fibre and health benefits, and take some fruit and nuts to work.

“Two cups of tea as well (research shows it keeps you calm, but alert), and I am ready to take on the day!”

If the 7-day meal plan isn’t for you, studies have shown that any type of meal planning has many benefits and show a significant contribution to dieting success.

The benefits of meal planning

There are many benefits when it comes to long-term meal planning:

1. Saving money

There are going to be many times throughout our lives where money will be tight. By carefully budgeting and planning every meal, you won’t feel the need to eat out as often, which in turn will probably save your wallet and your waistline. You’ll be surprised by how much money you end up saving.

Ms Dynan, an Accredited Practising Dietician with the Dieticians Associations of Australia (DAA), says, “Using foods that have already been purchased will allow households to save, leaving more money to be spent elsewhere, such as on a new pair of swimmers.”

2. Saving time

The good thing about long-term meal planning is that if you’re organised enough, you’ll only have to go shopping once a week, or even once a fortnight! This will save endless hours spent walking between the fridge and pantry, trying to figure out what to cook for dinner or take to lunch.

3. More variety

By writing every meal down in a list, you’re giving yourself more opportunities to be creative. Statistically, families who don’t plan their meals end up eating the same meal more often because it’s easy. Be on the hunt constantly for different recipes you can try, and add those ingredients to your shopping list.

  1. Less stress

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory, but you’ll be shocked by how much stress comes from having to think of, and then cook meals. Especially if you have kids to cook for… “Mum, Dad, what’s for dinner?”

5. Less waste

By meal-planning, you can eliminate the opportunity for food to be forgotten in the fridge. Any leftovers can be taken into account and planned for school or work lunches and other snacks throughout the day.

Keeping a clean pantry and fridge can also help to minimise the opportunity for mould, with experts recommending a thorough clean every 2 weeks (or whenever you now do your grocery shopping).

On average, Australian households throw out the equivalent of 1 in 5 grocery bags we purchase, costing the average household more than $1,000 per year. Combined, Australia spends approximately $8 billion on wasted food each year.

Ms Dynan, an Accredited Practising Dietician with the Dieticians Associations of Australia (DAA), recommends keeping some lean meat, chicken or fish in the freezer and pasta sauce, stir-fry sauce, and pasta or rice in the pantry. Add the usual “end of week leftover vegetables” and you have a tasty and nutritious pasta dish or stir-fry.

It gets easier

If you’re considering starting up a long-term meal plan, the idea can seem quite daunting. I promise that once you’ve “taken the plunge”, planning will start to fall into a rhythm and become a lot easier.

Begin by starting with the ingredients you already have in the cupboard and fridge so you don’t waste any food, and work out your options from there.

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