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The biggest mistakes healthy people make

Katy Moore
Friday, January 11, 2013
Image: Thinkstock

So you go to the gym, drink low calorie drinks and eat low fat meals. You’re healthy right? Not necessarily. We talk to leading nutritionist and accredited practising dietician Dr Joanna McMillan about potential pitfalls that can hinder your health rather than sustain it.

I’m healthy, I take lots of vitamins

Less is often more with supplements. Some vitamins can even be detrimental to your health in large doses. “B6 can cause nerve damage in excess while overloading on iron tablets can instigate cellular damage in the gut, so be aware of what your body needs.” says Dr McMillan.

I work out so I don’t need to eat my greens every day

Just because you have gym membership doesn’t mean you can skimp on the essential nutrients found in healthy foods. Dr McMillan suggests that, “at least half a mealtime plate should consist of vegetables, which provide the vital phytochemicals our body needs

I’m healthy, I always buy organic

While eating organic food means consuming less potentially damaging chemicals, the widespread belief organic food is more nutritious, is largely unfounded according to Dr McMillan.

“Forget buying organic because you think it’s healthier. An organic biscuit is still a biscuit. If you can afford organic fresh food then great, but for most Australians the focus should be on eating more fresh food full stop.” she says.

I look after my health by concentrating on fat contents

Focus on fat and you might be missing some other health demons. Most people consume far more salt in their diet than recommended, with much of it hidden in processed and low-fat foods.

"Too much sodium can cause long term health problems like high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke and kidney issues," Dr McMillan says.

Diet drinks are healthy-they have no sugar

Diet drinks may be missing the spoonfuls of sugar found in regular fizzy drinks but sweeteners used to give that sugary taste are still undesirable as they’re chemical based. Dr McMillan’s main concern is how they perpetuate the craving for sweet things.

“The bottom line is, we should be drinking water or veggie juice to quench our thirst, not relying on sweet tasting fizzy drinks”

I always choose fish or chicken over unhealthy red meat

It’s true there’s more saturated fat in red meat but leaving it out of your diet completely can mean missing out on some great health benefits.

"While chicken and fish are great options, lean red meat is a fantastic source of iron and zinc, not to mention it satisfies hunger." says Dr McMillan.

I always choose salads when eating out

Your standard salad is indeed healthy but once you start adding to it, it can rival a fast food burger in the fat department. Dr McMillan points out that a Caesar salad for example, has very little lettuce and a lot of saturated fat in the creamy dressing and friend croutons.

If you do choose a salad, she suggests opting for one with plenty of nuts, seeds and lean protein to fill you up- and always ask for dressing on the side.

I know foods are healthy by their packaging

Dr McMillan warns us not to be fooled by clever food descriptions. “Low fat doesn’t always mean healthy. To make up for taste, there is usually an excess of salt, starch and refined sugars.”

Read the ingredients list for a more reliable indication.

“If it sounds like a homemade recipe with ingredients you know, it’s going to be better for you than a long list of chemical sounding names.”

I consume lots of olive oil which is good for you

There’s no denying the benefits of olive oil in our diet; it aids absorption of other nutrients and it’s great for hair and skin, but watch out — it's still energy dense.

"If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t be heavy handed,” Dr McMillan says. "Substituting butter for olive oil on bread is great but why not add vinegar to it to lower the GI of the meal”


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