Nutrition – Food choices give you power

If recently released statistics are anything to go by, the future health of New Zealanders is looking bleak. Our obesity rates are now the third highest in the OECD and it is predicted that within the next 20 years, two million people – nearly one-in-two adults – will be considered clinically obese. Alongside this, diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate and doctors are performing nearly 1000 amputations a year due to diabetes-related health conditions.

While the potential health consequences and financial costs of this trend are huge, we have the power to turn this around. Obesity and type two diabetes can be improved by changing the important food decisions you are making multiple times daily: what, when and how you eat.

I recently worked with a client who has type one diabetes. Within three months he lost 9kgs and was able to halve his levels of daily medication. I have clients with type two diabetes who are seeing vast improvements with their blood sugar levels simply by making different food choices. Food decisions are powerful because it’s something we need to do every day. If you are worried about your weight and health, start making better choices.

I am a big believer in keeping it simple. Eat real food as often as possible, with as few ingredients as possible. Processed convenience foods are fine to have occasionally but shouldn’t be eaten every day.

If you need to lose weight, the approach I recommend is a low carbohydrate diet. Limit your intake of high-carbohydrate foods such as bread, pasta, rice, grains and sugary foods, and get most of your daily carbohydrates from vegetables. Make sure you are eating protein with every meal and include healthy fats, so you feel satiated between meals. Lowering carbohydrates – especially sugary foods – is a great way to balance your blood sugar levels.

In addition to what you eat, it’s important to look at how you eat. Your body needs time to process and digest food so you should eat slowly and wait at least four hours between meals, preferably longer. This is often sabotaged by having snacks that are usually eaten out of habit rather than hunger. Any time you eat when you are not truly hungry is a problem if you are trying to lose or maintain weight.

Timing of meals is important, too. For optimal digestion, don’t eat a huge dinner late in the evening. Have dinner as early as possible or make lunch your largest meal of the day and have a light dinner. This one small change can make a big difference.

There are many diseases we don’t have a lot of control over, but obesity is not one of them. Be responsible for the choices you are making; make good choices and avoid becoming one of New Zealand’s health statistics in the future.