The ABCs of Nutrition – Nutrition basics 101

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Do you want a fun way to understand the basics of nutrition? Well here it is – the alphabet of Nutrition.

A – Appetite – An internal body signal driving us to eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full. Appetite serves a major role in ensuring we choose appropriate foods to meet our nutrition and pleasure needs.

B – Body respect/positivity – Focus on eating and lifestyle behaviours that respect your food and consequently your body. When this happens your language around food and body changes for the better, as does your self esteem and relationships (with food/body/other people).

– Colourful food – Eating different coloured food is a great way to get a variety of nutrients.

D – Diets don’t work – Instead, take the non-diet approach.

D (2) – Dietitians – Dietitians specialise in medical nutrition therapy, to assist in maintaining and improving health. Dietitians also assist in the prevention, treatment and management of illnesses, diseases and conditions, whether they are acute, chronic and degenerative in nature.

E – Eating behaviours – Positive eating behaviours lead to positive nutrition and health.

– Food – What’s nutrition without food? It’s that tasty nourishing (i.e. containing nutrients) stuff that fuels the body for growth and life so you can focus on being awesome.

G – Guide to Healthy Eating (Australian – 2013) – Is the ‘what‘ of nutrition.

H – Health At Every Size®1 – Is about accepting and respecting body diversity in terms of shape and size, and rejecting the notion that health is related to weight alone.

I – Individualised – Nutrition should be considered on an individual basis, as everyone is different.

I (2) – Intuitive eating and mindful eating – Is the ‘how’ of nutrition.

J – Joy – It is important to find the joy in ‘normal eating‘.

K – Kilojoule – The measure of energy we consume and expend. Calories/kilojoules are not created equally. Calorie counting is not an effective means of focusing on health; rather it’s a typically a dieting behaviour, which centres around weight loss. When it comes to diets, in 95% of people, weight loss is not sustained in the long term due to the body’s set point. If this body set point is interfered with, as can occur with weight loss dieting, then the body set point shifts up to a higher weight (and this is why people put on more weight after weight loss dieting). Instead, love your food and the experience of nourishing your body for health.

L – Love – Love your food, love your body, love your life!

– Metabolism – The body’s powerhouse to life – 3 component of metabolism: 1/ Basal metabolism rate (BMR) – Is the amount of energy a person needs to keep their body functioning (i.e. breathing, blood circulation, body temperature, cell growth, brain and nerve function and muscle contraction) at rest. There are many factors that affect BMR – muscle wasting or diminishing muscle mass from aging, malnutrition, not eating enough food, dieting/starving or fasting can reduce BMR by 15%. Loss of lean muscle further reduces BMR (BMR accounts for ~ 50-80% energy use) 2/ Energy needed during physical activity (20% daily energy) 3/ Thermic effect of food (Energy used to eat, digest and metabolise food – Accounts for 5-10% energy use).

N – Nutrients – These wonderful molecules in food that promote growth and sustain life. Nutrients can be classified as macronutrients (Energy, Carbohydrate, Protein, Fat, Water) and micronutrients (the many vitamins and mineral).

O – Opportunity – Good nutrition leads to great life opportunities and being a productive member of society.

P – Physical activity/moving your body – This is key to optimum health. Finding the joy of movement, encouraging all physical activities rather than prescribing a specific exercise routine to alter ones body shape or size. Choose to move because it makes you feel good, and because this is great for your health.

P (2) – Perfection NOT – Ensure the act of nourishing your body for good health is what you enjoy. Perfection is not what dietitians aim for with food and nutrition. Eating is a journey not an end point.

QQuality of life – Your quality of life is greatly enhanced from good nutrition.

R – Rest & relaxation – These are major factors in self care to enhance health including physical, mental and social well-being. When rest and relaxation are not optimal, you may use food as a means to find balance, which can negatively affect your relationship with food and your body.

S – Science – Nutrition is an evolving science. Recommendations from Accredited Practising Dietitians are backed by scientific evidence.

S (2) – Self compassion – Self compassion is the essence of good health.

– Tasty food – Your 5 senses (i.e. sight, smell, sound, taste and touch) help you to enjoy food.

–  (Do you) Underestimate the value of nutrition and even yourself?  – Nutrition is a superpower and you are enough. Give yourself a high five!

V -Value your health – It’s your biggest asset! Because without health what do you have?

W – Well-being not weight – Be careful what you focus on. Embracing respectful care that acknowledges and ceases weight discrimination, stigma and weight bias will serve your health better than focusing on weight alone.

X – Chromosomes – Genes – Genetics – Nutritional genomics, nutrigenetics, epigenetics – It’s all a fascinating evolving science, and just one of the many tools in the dietitian’s toolkit. This is a new exciting aspect of nutrition science so watch this space to learn more about how this knowledge can help you enhance your health.

Y – Yo yo weight loss dieting – Also called ‘chronic dieting’ this is a detrimental practise for your health because 95% of diets don’t work, and they can also be significant risk factors for developing an eating disorder.

Z – Zzzz – Get enough sleep! – Sleep affects your metabolism and nutrition choices so make sure you get sufficient amounts each night.

[1] Health At Every Size and HAES are registered trademarks of the Association for Size Diversity and Health and used with permission.

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What did you learn today?

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