Ask your group of friends, your co-workers or your next-door neighbours what their weakness is when it comes to food, and I guarantee at least one person will say ‘hot chips’ (and amen to that, sister). But with good health in mind, it’s wise to think twice before you down your next bucket of fries. Here’s why.
In terms of the food pyramid, hot chips occupy prime real estate – i.e. the tiny penthouse at the top (along with other favourites like ice cream, lollies and pastries). What that means is that you need to build the foundation of a healthy balanced diet first, before you enjoy tasty treats like delicious chippies.
In other words, food is broadly categorised as either ‘core’ or ‘non-core’. Core foods are the super nutritious foods that should form the basis of your everyday diet. I’m talking fruit and veg, wholegrains, lean protein and reduced-fat dairy. On the flip side, non-core or discretionary foods are the treats that should only be enjoyed every now and then and in moderation (I’m looking at you hot chips).
The sad truth is, however, that more than a third of the average Australian’s energy intake is made up of discretionary items. That’s a worry, because discretionary foods are usually a calorie bomb – high in added sugar, fat and/or sodium. What’s more, they offer little nutritional benefit and are often eaten in place of nutrient-dense wholefoods.
To give you a little more perspective, it’s recommended that the average woman between the ages of 19 to 50 has no more than two and a half serves of discretionary foods a day. That’s highly individualised though, and depends on factors like activity level and size – so for some, there mightn’t even be room for a single discretionary serve (let alone two and a half)!
In case you’re wondering, one serve of discretionary food equates to 500 to 600 kilojoules (or 120 to 145 calories). And now for what you’ve come here for: that’s equivalent to just twelve hot chips. Yes, you read that correctly. Twelve.
In contrast to what you might be thinking, I’m not the food police. I actually love a handful of hot chips more than your average Joe, and I understand that these ‘treat’ foods can add a whole lot of enjoyment to your life. All I’m saying is that discretionary foods like hot chips should be the cherry on top of a healthy balanced diet – not the other way around.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.
While we’re on the topic, you should read about how this girl lost 5kgs and ate pancakes for breakfast every day, and what your blood sugar levels are telling you.
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