Food fight: fad diets putting health at risk, says dietitian

HUNGER GAMES: Medicare Local dietitian Jessica Melmoth quashes the myths surrounding fad diets.

HUNGER GAMES: Medicare Local dietitian Jessica Melmoth quashes the myths surrounding fad diets.

THE paleo, five and two, no-sugar and Atkins diets should be thrown out the window if you want  to live a healthy lifestyle, according to Medicare Local dietitians.

“Fad diets can be harmful in the growth and development of children and need to be considered carefully when applied to the whole family,” said dietician Jessica Melmoth.

Ms Melmoth said fad diets may provide short-term results, but were difficult to sustain, along with diet pre-packed meals and miracle weight-loss pills.

“People just put the weight straight back on again,” she said.

“A fad diet is a weight-loss diet that promises fast weight loss without a scientific basis.”

Ms Melmoth said reality programs such as The Biggest Loser created an unrealistic situation for people hoping for massive weight loss.

“All those hours of exercise aren’t sustainable and the viewer never really know what goes on behind the scenes,” she said.

“With many of these fad diets whole food groups are cut out, it’s not a good thing.”

Dietitian Renaye Gadsby said  the promotion of fad diets was fuelled by exposure on social media.

“These diets are based on a small, selective number of studies that are hand-picked to advocate the next money-making venture such as book sales, conferences, diet pills and shakes,” she said.

Both dietitians, who work for the Medicare Local network, say the basis of a good diet is engaging all the food groups and going for the low-fat options, despite recent publicity whole milk has less sugar and additives.

“People sometimes are just completely unaware of how much they are eating and when they control portion sizes they get good long-term results"

“We still promote low-fat milk from the age of two as fats can contribute to a range of diseases later in life such as cardiovascular and diabetes,” she said.

Ms Melmoth said many of her clients found the greatest success in portion control.

“People sometimes are just completely unaware of how much they are eating and when they control portion sizes they get good long-term results,” she said.

Ms Melmoth said the optimum size for protein-based meals was 65 grams of meat per meal, 80 grams of chicken or 100 grams of fish.

“That’s much smaller than many people think, but if you have a balanced diet with all the food groups you shouldn’t get hungry unless you’ve been a massive eater,” she said.

She said many dieters fell into the trap of drinking too much fruit juice.

“It should only be 125ml a serving and that’s not much,” she said.

“While fruits do contain sugars, we still recommend two pieces a day, along with five serves of vegetables for a healthy diet.”

Ms Melmoth said people who found it difficult to find time to exercise should opt for short bursts of exercise throughout the day, for example, in 10 or 20-minute segments.

“You don’t need to go to the gym for an hour and half to get results,” she said.

Medicare Local refers readers to the Australian Dietary Guidelines for healthy weight loss.

janice.harris@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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