Making your health changes last

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Jane Karpavicious, Accredited Practising Dietitian tells us how to retain the healthy habits we’ve learned during February.

Congratulations on reaching the end of your febfast! You may have noticed some subtle changes in your health and energy levels, to continue building on this success and impact your long term health, read on! Continuing with your new diet with less added-sugar can really help to reduce your waistline and the risk of several conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Your teeth will love you for it as well!

Here we provide you with some tips to keep up your new low-added sugar diet.

Don’t switch to diet soft drinks

Diet soft drink is considered ‘junk food’ and should only be consumed occasionally. They contain loads of colourings, flavours and preservatives which we don’t need; they are also highly acidic and destructive to our teeth. There is also some evidence to suggest that artificially sweetened soft drinks confuse the body’s association between sweetness and satisfaction. Eating sugar triggers a feeling of satisfaction by the brain, but artificial sweeteners may not have the same effect. This could lead to over consumption of calories, which could explain why switching to artificially sweetened drinks doesn’t necessarily lead to weight reduction.

If you are still craving a sweet drink, try flavouring water or soda water with fruit, rather than switching to diet soft drinks.

Keep treats as treats

Let’s face it; life would be boring without the odd sweet treat! A healthy diet still includes small amounts of added sugar but this depends on how much and how often. One way to keep you on track is to adopt the 80/20 rule – eat healthy 80% of the time and have your special occasion foods- take away, alcohol, sweet treats only 20% of the time. For some people this means eating healthy during the week and then indulging a little on Friday nights and Saturdays. If you are having a sweet treat make sure you sit down and enjoy it. You can practice this with a single square of chocolate – put it in your mouth and close your eyes and experience the taste and texture right until the end. Many of us eat without thinking and this is one way we over eat on a daily basis.

Remove temptations

Not many of us have the will power to walk past the bowl of chocolates or the biscuit jar without grabbing one. It’s really important to remove these temptations from eye sight. If you have a biscuit jar on the kitchen bench put it in the pantry and place it right at the back so you don’t see it when you open the cupboard. Replace the biscuits with a bowl of fruit. This should apply to your workplace too- think about sweet treats sitting on desks, the lunch table or in the kitchen. See if you can remove these unnecessary snacks altogether. Fresh fruit in the kitchen is a much healthier option.

Food as a reward

You’ve been working extra hours this week so you need a reward right? You just completed a huge project and want to celebrate? For some of us, rewarding ourselves with food is a habitual behaviour. Stop and think- do I do this? Placing this type of label on food, particularly ‘junk foods’ can wreak havoc with our waistlines. Find some other ways to reward yourself such as treating yourself to a massage, buying yourself that piece clothing or accessory you’ve had your eye on, buy a book or magazine, a new pair of runners or take yourself to the movies. Similarly, junk foods are often what people reach for when stressed, tired or angry. It’s important to recognise these behaviours and make a list of strategies that you can use in these situations to stop you from reaching for the ice cream. Some examples are going for a brisk walk or jog, calling a friend, visiting your neighbour, or turning on some music.

Eat more fresh foods

We’ve learnt through February that sugar is in many packaged foods. An easy way of reducing the amount of added sugar from your diet is to eat mostly fresh, unpackaged foods. If stir-fry often features on the menu in your house don’t reach for the pre-made sauce, you can easily make your own. Practice making sauces and marinades with the herbs, spices and condiments in your pantry, you’ll have cheap, easy recipes on hand in no time.

You’ve just formed some great healthy habits so don’t stop them now! If you would like the support of a dietitian to help you continue on your sugar free journey you can find one near you from the Dietitians Association of Australia www.daa.asn.au.

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