So, you’ve maybe over indulged just a little over the festive season and now its January and you are guilting yourself into a spin about how to lose those extra pounds. Or maybe you just want to make a fresh start in the New Year. The key thing though is balance and focusing on nourishing your body rather than depriving it. People are frequently being influenced by unreliable sources when it comes to dietary advice and this can lead to confusion regarding the best choices for healthy eating patterns.
To help you on your way to eating well in 2024, the National Dairy Council asked a number of Ireland’s top nutrition experts on their advice for navigating diet fads and myths in the new year.
Top tips for eating well in 2024 for some Ireland’s top Nutritionists and Dieticians
Independent Dietitian Sarah Keogh of Eatwell says
“Avoid big changes and crash diets. Try picking one or two areas of food to really work on. You might decide to get more fruit and vegetables into your diet. You might decide now is the time to make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D (after all, bones don’t look after themselves). Whatever it is that you want to do, make a plan, buy the foods and do one or two things at a time. Once you have one good habit bedded in, you can move onto the next one. This might be a slower approach than the promised “lose two stones by February” but, it is more sustainable, and you are much more likely to still be following those habits this time next year”.
Many people start the year with a crash diet, trying to lose weight overnight when in fact these kinds of diets are both unhealthy and unsustainable and a more balanced approach is what’s needed.
“Look at portion sizes. People really miss this one when it comes to weight. It is not about cutting out favourite foods, it is about reducing the amounts of foods. Balance meals – one quarter protein, one quarter carbs and half vegetables or salad and use a smaller plate. Opt for smaller sizes of treats: a small muffin, a small bar of chocolate and don’t open a sharing bag of crisps unless you are going to share them. Definitely avoid cutting out whole food groups for no reason. There are always fashions around and foods that people cut out – in the 1990’s it was fat, 10 years ago it was carbs, today it’s dairy. What so called “experts” on social media don’t tell you is that food groups have more than just their main nutrient – carbs have fibre, antioxidants, minerals and B vitamins; dairy has calcium but is also a key source of iodine as well as vitamin B12 and protein. Cutting out whole food groups always means you are missing out on more than you think – and there is no science behind these fashions.”.
Aveen Bannon, Dietitian at the Dublin Nutrition Centre says
“Let 2024 be the year you nurture and grow a healthy relationship with food. We have a lesser-known sense called interception which helps us understand and feel what is going on inside our body. An example might be recognising the sensation of hunger or fullness. Noting these sensations and responding to our body’s signals helps us eat mindfully and more in tune with ourselves. Taking time over meals, avoiding distractions, and chewing well give us both time to savour what we are eating but also detect when we are satisfied or may need to eat more. Something else to be mindful of is how we speak about food and weight to ourselves and others. Watch your language! Focus on the positive, what you can add to your diet and what nutrition can do for you. Remember too that kids hear everything! Avoid dieting or discussing diets around children and avoid labelling foods as good or bad. Discussing body dissatisfaction, or commenting on others’ weights in front of children can make them overly aware of their bodies and food choices. Food is morally neutral and does not need to be judged”
Louise Reynolds, Dietitian with the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute says
“If you have young children at home, you might like to make some positive changes to family eating habits after the festive season. The evening meal is a great time for the family to sit down and enjoy a meal together, so think about trying to do that a few days a week if you can. Family mealtimes allow you to lead the way and model healthy eating practices – when your child sees you eating lots of different foods, they are more likely to do the same. Also think about using smaller plates for younger children to help with portion size and you’ll feel better knowing everyone is eating the right amount of food for them. And children are always more likely to eat meals which they have helped to prepare, so get them involved in the kitchen as often as you can”
Prof. Sharon Madigan Sports Nutritionist at Sport Ireland Institute says
“Many of us will be going back to sports or new league fixtures. It’s crucial to fuel the work that you are going to do around training and not restrict food intakes especially on training days. Look at the days you are training and maybe aim to have your larger meal earlier in the day and refuel after the session, especially night sessions. This avoids fatigue setting in towards the end of the week and you get better consistency with your training. Avoid fatigue or tiredness, when we are tired, we are less resilient and often this is when the fast-food options slip in. Food can really help you get the most out of your training and you will see and feel the results quicker”
The Department of Health’s Healthy Eating Guidelines recommend 3 servings from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group each day as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Between the ages of 9-18 years, 5 servings per day are recommended due to the increased calcium requirements at this life stage. Examples of one serving include a 200ml glass of milk, 125g pot of yogurt and 25g of hard cheese e.g., cheddar cheese.
For further information on healthy eating, nutrition, and recipes to start the year well, please visit www.ndc.ie