Your biggest diet questions answered

Anna Daniels

Anna Daniels

There’s the old saying that we are what we eat. If this is true then we’ve become a nation of carrot sticks and chickpeas. We’re on a mission to be healthier than ever.

Eat this, don’t eat that... Over the last few years there has been an explosion in healthy eating, faddy diets and advice.

Gluten free, Shutterstock

Gluten free, Shutterstock

Dieters are told daily what we should and shouldn’t eat, but what advice should we really be taking a bit out of?

We asked top dietician Anna Daniels.

Will eating fat-free foods make me fat free?

It is a myth that fat free food leads to fat-free bodies. Sugar contains no fat and sweets can sometimes be marketed as fat free. Yet a diet which contains to much sugar will inevitably lead to weight gain. Be very wary of foods that are marketed as fat free - always read the label, as most often they have added sugars.

If I eat dinner after 6pm will I gain weight?

Eating after 6pm does not cause weight gain. Your metabolism continues to burn energy throughout the evening and also throughout the night. As long as you don’t eat in excess eating later in the evening has no hindrance to weight loss. The only thing to consider is if you have acid-reflux or hiatus hernia then eating close to bed would exacerbate symptoms as you lie down.

Should I only eat organic?

Larger supermarkets are now stocking organic so many organic products are becoming more readily available and accessible. Some studies have outlined organic foods are found to be lower in pesticide residues and higher in antioxidants, yet other studies have found very little comparisons. Its also good to note many things affect the nutrients in the crop, season, soil etc. Organic meat and dairy is thought to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids possibly linked to the diet of organically reared animals. For a healthy balanced diet, firstly make sure your diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, pulses, grains and lean protein. Then if you can afford to buy organic then do so, although the health benefits may not be dramatic as you may think.

Will grazing help me lose weight?

Eating regularly throughout the day is good for stabilising blood sugar levels and also ensuring your metabolism works efficiently. However grazing can sometimes become ‘mindless’. This is when you are snacking on foods without really thinking about it and this can be damaging to weight loss. If this happens then it can have a negative effect on your weight as you can be consuming excess calories overall throughout the day.

Will drinking diet fizzy juice help me lose weight?

Water is the best drink you can have for weight loss. Diet fizzy drinks have a place where they can replace full sugar fizzy drinks and this will save on calories, so for someone consuming sugary fizzy drinks it can be a good replacement. However, drinking fizzy juice or soda in excess isn’t a good idea, instead ensure you drink plenty of water, aiming for 2 liters of fluid per day, with tea, coffee and juice counting towards this.

Are low or no carbohydrate diets healthy?

Carbohydrates often get a bad reputation. When not eaten in excess they form part of a healthy balanced diet. Some of the World’s healthiest diets are based around carbohydrate foods - The Mediterranean Diet (al dente pasta, bread, potatoes), Japanese and Asian Diet (Rice). A review of low carbohydrate diets found that they were associated with similar weight loss to energy restrictive diets and low fat diets. So if you can’t live a life without pasta (I couldn’t!), instead focus on your portion size.

Should I eat gluten free foods instead?

There is no evidence that eating a gluten free diet is better for you than eating a normal diet. Unless you have Coeliac disease which is an autoimmune condition caused by the injection of gluten. Which means that gluten becomes incredibly damaging and causes malabsorption issues and symptoms of bloating and diarrhea. Some people also find they have gluten sensitivity, which means they have symptoms associated with eating gluten similar to those of a Coeliac, without the damaging effects. However, if you have no symptoms and aren’t Coeliac then there is no need to cut out gluten... and yes that means the ‘gluten free’ brownies do count!

Should I only eat organic?

Larger supermarkets are now stocking organic so many organic products are becoming more readily available and accessible. Some studies have outlined organic foods are found to be lower in pesticide residues and higher in antioxidants, yet other studies have found very little comparisons. Its also good to note many things affect the nutrients in the crop, season, soil etc. Organic meat and dairy is thought to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids possibly linked to the diet of organically reared animals. For a healthy balanced diet, firstly make sure your diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, pulses, grains and lean protein. Then if you can afford to buy organic then do so, although the health benefits may not be dramatic as you may think.