Expert Interview

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Spoons for Thought

Sally Johnson

MBB recently talked with Sally Johnston, one of two (Australian) accredited practising dieticians and nutritionists who have just published their book Spoons for Thought – Making sense of the food you eat.  Sally’s co author is Justine Hawke.

Sally said that the book evolved from a need to help people understand just how much sugar and fat is contained in the foods we commonly eat. The book is described as “a simple visual guide to expose the fat and sugar hidden in many of the foods we eat each day. With over 250 photos of real foods, and the teaspoons of fat and sugar they contain, you can make smart swaps to become healthier, feel good and reduce your weight”.

According to the authors, building awareness is the key to improving overall health and weight loss. Because for most of us, the correlation between how our food looks and what it actually contains is a confusing dilemma. And it’s not getting any easier.

The current tendency to view sugar as “the enemy” and rid our diets of it completely is not, according to Sally, realistic or even necessary. “Sugar is not the main cause of obesity and can be included as part of a healthy and balanced diet”.  “Food is not just about nutrition, it contributes to our quality of life.” She added that “small portions of indulgent foods, eaten without guilt can help keep us on track”. This sounds very much like the voice of reason.

Current Australian statistics relating to us being overweight and/or obese are alarming – 2/3 of Australian adults currently fit into either of these two categories. Sally explained that being overweight has become the norm and has helped us to create a different perspective on how big we should be.  Collectively, this means that we are starting to view being bigger as normal; we have lost our sense of what is a healthy and average size.

If most of the country is overweight then the tendency is for most people to gain weight, much like paying “catch up”. Eating frequency, portion sizes, less time to prepare nutritious meals and food processing have all contributed. The Body Mass Index (BMI) though somewhat controversial in terms of objectively assessing healthy weight range, “is still a useful general tool” for assessing individual risk, Sally reports.

Sally says it’s useful to set up basic habits and rules around our eating and to make healthy choices = easy choices. “Planning and organisation is the key to good health” she says, so “consider setting up weekly menu plans, shop in readiness and do whatever preparation you can”. “If you remove the last minute decision making around what you’re going to eat for dinner that night, it can really help”.  And the “current perception that to be healthy is that you need to go the extreme is simply not true or sustainable”. “You don’t need to forgo the pleasure of good taste by making healthy food choices” Sally said.

Although most of us know that we should be eating five serves of vegetables a day, only 8% of Australians are doing this. Instead, we seem to be filling up on rice, pasta and meat, frequently as “one pot meals” which tend to be kilojoule dense but nutrient poor. If we aim for ½ or our plates to be taken up with vegetables then this is a good start. We also need to be mindful that meat does not need to be eaten three times each day “It’s fine to have vegetable, bean or lentil based meals on a regular basis,” Sally reports.

So what can we do to improve not only our health but also our comprehension of the link between what we put into our mouths and what we end up carrying around?


 Sally and Justine’s Top 5 Tips for Weight Loss:


1. Eat mindfully – Concentrate on what you are eating, eat slowly so you can taste, savour and enjoy your food. Avoid eating on the run.

2. Eat less – Could you use a smaller plate when serving your meal? Do you order a large coffee when a small would suffice?

3.  Prepare more food at home.

4. Eat more vegetables, mainly the non starchy types.

5. Move more.







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