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Hi <<First Name>>,
In this issue of our dietitians’ newsletter, we bring tips and know how so you can aim for your best health:
  • Do you have a calorie obsession?
  • We’re back with our ‘Magic of the Mediterranean diet’ cookshop
  • Why plan your meals
  • B12 – Are you getting enough?
  • One pot hearty recipe you can make: Cannelini bean & carrot soup with parsley
  • TV feature to watch: Alzheimer’s – can we prevent it?

Are You Obsessed with Calorie Counting?

If you’ve tried to shed a few kilos, you’ve most likely tried calorie counting. It’s been around so long, some believe it’s the only thing to consider for weight loss. Not necessarily. And having an obsessive and unhealthy focus simply on the calories in your food, rather than where they are coming from, could do more harm than good. Dietitian Aimee Van Der Veer reports.

Where did calorie counting come from?

Calories are not something inherently evil, to avoid. A calorie (or kilojoule in Australia) is simply a unit of energy that tells us how much potential energy is stored in our food. For many years, this has been determined by bomb calorimetry – a process in science that measures the energy released when food is burned in a specialised chamber. But this release of energy is not identical to what actually happens inside the human body, according to more recent research, which is ongoing.

Counting calories for weight loss is thought to have been popularised by Dr Lulu Hunt Peters in 1918, after her best-selling diet book described her success with weight loss from counting and cutting calories.

What’s wrong with just a focus on calorie counting?

1.It’s not as accurate as it seems

The system only gives the calorie content of the protein, carbohydrate and fat contained in the food. However, we don’t eat these macronutrients in isolation, we eat foods and combinations of foods. There are many other factors that influence the digestion and calorie absorption from a food beyond these nutrients, such as the degree of processing, whether the food is from an animal or plant source and even your gut microbiome health. For example, some plant foods, like whole nuts, actually release less calories into the body than stated on their packaging (which can sometimes frighten people off eating them!) while some other animal-based foods may release more than originally thought and measured using bomb calorimetry.

There are also limitations in the accuracy of calorie counting due to seasonal and packaging variations and the margin of error can vary from packet-to-packet. Did you know that laws in the US allow a margin of error for calories of 20%? There is no law for the upper limit in Australia, but the law states that nutritional information panels should not be misleading. So, we can generally trust these values as fairly accurate. However, calorie counts on food packaging are designed to be a guide, not a measure of their weight loss or health potential.

2. Nutrient quality isn’t considered

Calories alone don’t tell you how nutritious a food item really is. While your body needs calories as an energy source like a car needs petrol, it also needs vitamins, minerals, fibre and various antioxidants. If you simply focus on counting calories, there is an assumption that they are all equal in how they will affect your body - whether they come from processed, packaged or whole foods. That would be like believing diesel, standard unleaded and premium unleaded fuel would all be equally good to run your car!
Recent research shows that the quality of calories (the foods they come from or that supply them) is most important for both your weight and wellbeing. Consider your calories by all means – especially from processed foods and alcohol – but don’t become obsessed with this measure because if you only look at calories you could be missing the bigger picture.
3. It can trigger overeating 

With the popularisation of calorie counting for weight loss, low fat diets became the focus some years ago because 1 gram of fat contains about twice the calories as 1 gram of carbohydrate or protein. The food industry used this to their advantage, still manufacturing highly processed foods but positioning them as healthy just because they were low in fat or lower in calories. What many people didn’t realise was that in order to maintain taste and textural properties, sugars or highly processed carbohydrates were often being added instead – a red flag for any weight loss attempt!

While fats may be higher in calories, they have a higher satiety affect, keeping you fuller for longer. On the otherhand, low fat alternatives high in sugar cause a sudden spike in your blood glucose and leave you hungry soon after. That’s why it’s easy to overeat and rarely feel satisfied when eating such foods. Therefore, regardless of whether they are lower or not in calories, such foods are poor choices to support your long term weight and wellbeing goals.

Calorie counting also fails to recognise our body’s hunger and fullness cues. When we are not in tune with these cues, it is easy to overeat or undereat in order to adhere to strict portion guides and numbers. It’s better to consider the overall healthiness of our food choices and our satiety signals as this will automatically reduce or cut out surplus calories.

If not calorie counting, then what?
While you can take calories into consideration, and this can be especially helpful for some people, the good news is, you don’t need to weigh out each morsel of food in your diet and plug it into a calorie counting app to attain and maintain a healthier weight. Keys to successful and more natural weight (and health) management include:
  • Diet quality – base your meals on unprocessed, wholefoods such as wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds;
  • Mindful eating – learn to listen to your body’s cues as to when and how much to eat (an Accredited Practising Dietitian can help you with this – call our clinic on 9899 5208 if you are in Sydney);
  • Move more – find some physical activity you enjoy and move more throughout each day – not just on weekends;
  • Get enough sleep and manage your stress – poor sleep and stress can also affect hormones that regulate your appetite, making you eat more than you need or want. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep and manage your stress levels by regularly spending time in nature, having a rest day each week and catching up with those you love; exercise can also assist with stress management.

What’s Cooking – Magic of the Mediterranean Diet with Dr Sue Radd
Exciting news!!! We have announced our first public in-person cookshop since the lockdown. It's also our most popular topic since we started our award-winning cookshops in 2009.
What exactly is the Mediterranean diet and why is it so good for you? Why was it voted the best diet in the world for five years running? How can you adopt the delicious eating principles to benefit your family?
If you live in Sydney, join Dr Sue Radd at this intimate event in Castle Hill. Our cookshops are strictly limited to 20 people. In addition to evidence based nutrition information, you will receive tasting plates throughout the evening, free recipes and handouts. All, while in the comfort of your chair. No hands on work required. Health professionals are also welcome - we have had many doctors, nurses and dietitians attend over the years to upskill themselves.
Call 02 9899 5208 now if you're interested so you don't miss out. The tickets started selling the minute people learned we are back with this inspirational event. Only a few seats remaining.
When: 21st June 2022
Time: 6.00 pm – 8:00 pm
Where:  Nutrition & Wellbeing Clinic, Suite 10, 80 Cecil Ave, Castle Hill NSW 2154
Cost: $125 (includes tasting plates, recipes and more)
Find out more about this cookshop:


“A calorie is a calorie, so they say. It shouldn't matter whether it comes from steak, a carrot or a doughnut. Except it does!” – Dr Giles Yeo

Food Matters – Why Plan Meals?

When the weather cools, many people tend to resort to comfort eating. Yet, by planning your meals (and snacks, if you have them) the nutrition quality of what you put in your mouth will always be better and help you maintain your wellbeing. A little bit of forward thinking can also save time and money. It’s really worth your time investment.
Read more:

Food In Focus – B12 – Are you Getting Enough?

Are you over 50, taking metformin, vegetarian or going more plant based? You may not be getting enough vitamin B12. Watch this interview with Dr Sue Radd to learn more about this important vitamin and what you can do if your diet is lacking:

Recipe – Cannelini Bean & Carrot Soup with Parsley

Looking for a hearty one pot meal? Try this Croatian-inspired soup that’s also perfect to freeze as lunch portions. You can make it even faster if you have a pressure cooker.
Something to Watch with a Cuppa – Alzheimer’s – Can We Prevent It?

Can you delay or even prevent a decline in memory and thinking function as you age? Is it possible to be a healthy older age with intact cognition?

The science suggests, yes it is! Lifestyle factors such as what you eat, how much you move and sleep now can affect your risk of cognitive decline in the future.
The good news is that most of the power to push back this brain disease is in your hands!

If you missed it on ABC Catalyst, watch this fascinating 26-minute feature segment now or tonight:
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