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Nutrition and health

General Health and Wellbeing Susan Arentz Associate
With so many dietary recommendations around, it is difficult to know what food is most likely to optimise health, manage body weight, maximise brain power and energy, reduce symptoms of disease and help us and our families to live long, healthy lives.

Dr Mark Hyman famously said “Food is not just calories, it is information.  It talks to your DNA and tells it what to do.  The most powerful tool that can change your health, environment and entire world, is your fork.”

Most of our food choices are not based on health reasons alone; there are other considerations such as cost, availability, religious, social and moral reasons and of course personal taste and feelings.  And fortunately we no longer have to choose health over our other needs – healthy diets can be tasty, convenient, vegetarian, celebratory and energy giving.  Experts suggest that a significant key to success lies in getting creative. We all know that eating a variety of fresh, seasonal foods with as little amount of processing as possible in moderate amounts provides the most likely foundation for excellent health1.  This is due to balanced energy intake and higher content of dietary vitamins and minerals (nutrient dense foods).

Whilst many popular diets address single goals such as weight loss, they don’t often meet all of our other needs.  They can be difficult to manage, costly, take extra time and importantly not meet all our health requirements causing nutritional deficiencies and exacerbation of health problems.  In addition restrictive diets can lead to feelings of isolation and stigmatisation causing anxiety and stress.  Some researchers argue that restrictive diets can set the scene for development of food phobias where certain foods are considered an ‘enemy’ and can lead to debilitating eating disorders2.  For many of us, restrictive diets have a limited ‘shelf life’ with benefits short lived and difficult to maintain.

So how can we make sustainable dietary choices that maximise ours and our family’s health in a costly, convenient and tasty way?  Here are seven factors to consider:

  1. Make a meal plan – Prepare a menu and a shopping list
  2. Cook at home
  3. Eat with your family
  4. Don’t skip breakfast
  5. Plan ahead when dining out – choose meals you wouldn’t usually eat at home.
  6. Prepare healthy snacks
  7. Drink water
  8. Watch portion sizes

And  – be active every day.

Healthy Eating Pyramid


  1. Devine, C. M. (2005). “A life course perspective: Understanding food choices in time, social location, and history.” Journal of nutrition education and behavior 37(3): 121-128.
  2. Nicholls, D. and R. Viner (2005). “Eating disorders and weight problems.” Bmj 330(7497): 950-953.