Susie Burrell's blog has moved to Head there now for all the latest updates, mobile friendly templates, search tools and more.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why I prefer people eat vegetables instead of fruit

It may surprise you to hear that I, even though I am a dietitian,hate apples. I am not sure if I hate them because my mum sent me with one for recess on my first day of school when everyone else had potato chips, or because I find them sickly sweet, but whenever I see a dietitian’s logo featuring an apple, I feel slightly nauseous. In fact, whether it is an apple, an orange or even a mango, give me a vegetable in its place any day. It is not that I do not like all fruit, I simply prefer vegetables.

Now, you do not need a science degree to work out that fruit is very healthy. Packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals as well as being low in calories, fruit is a great snack choice. But the truth be known, if it came to choosing between fruit and vegetables, I would go for veges any day.

Before you get outraged that a dietitian would dare not talk about apples in anything but glowing terms I want you to consider this. Fruit, whilst being healthy contains far more calories and sugars than vegetables, with fewer health benefits. It is much easier to eat numerous pieces of fruit each day than it is to eat too many vegetables, and most clients I see for weight loss are eating far too much fruit, and far too few vegetables.

Vegetables make the perfect snack. They are generally not sweet, so you are not tempted to eat more and more of them. They are bulky, so they fill you up. They have virtually no calories but are so rich in nutrients that they are one of the few types of food that are actually linked to a reduced risk of developing some types of cancer long term.

So next time you go to grab a piece of fruit as you try to be “healthy”, grab a vegetable instead and your health, your weight and your tummy will benefit long term.

Vegetable/Salad (per cup, raw) Total Carbs (g) Total Cal
Broccoli <1 20
Pumpkin 1 70
Carrot 7 45
Tomato 4 30
Red capsicum 4 30
Cucumber 3 16
Peas 10 100
Green beans 3 30
Beetroot 10 60
Celery 1 15

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why it is irresponsible to sell Cheezels for 95c

We all love them, and if you are as old as I am you are likely to have grown up with the brightly coloured, extruded party snacks affectionately known in this country as “Cheezels”. I love these tasty little treats as much as you do, memories of childhood birthday parties and all things 80”s triggered at the mere thought of these little morsels, but my 7 year science degree still tells me that there are few foods as nutritionally nasty as the humble Cheezel. Packed with colours, flavours and a hearty dose of saturated fat, Cheezels are usually featured on my “worst supermarket foods” list which is why I was horrified to see them on sale at Woolworth stores last week for just 95c a box.

Now, before you tune out under the heading of “diet Nazi” I am the first to agree that there are times when we all eat foods that are not the best for us nutritionally and there is nothing wrong with this. At the end of the day we are all in control of our own destiny when it comes to our body weight and our health long term and the food decisions we make on a daily basis are no one’s business but our own. The issue I have with this situation is that there is a big difference between choosing to take home a packet of potato chips each week and one of our biggest supermarket chains actively encouraging their customers to buy a food that is of extremely poor nutritional quality by selling it at an exceptionally cheap price as well as giving such a product enormous exposure by placing it on eye catching stands at the front of the store. And it was not just one Woolworth’s store, from my research I am led to believe that Cheezels were on sale last week for 95c in numerous city stores throughout the state.

Whether the government will admit it or not, our two largest supermarkets have enormous power when it comes to influencing the health and nutritional intake of the country. If Woolworths sell Cheezels for 75% less than the cost of a punnet of blueberries, which do you think people buy? Similarly, supermarkets do not advertise 2 for 1 deals on chocolates, chips and biscuits because sales do not increase, what our supermarkets choose to discount, advertise and locate in prime store position absolutely influences what we buy when we visit the stores.

Given that 60% of Australian adults and up to 30% of Australian children are overweight or obese, aggressively marketing high fat, low nutritionally quality foods in such an overt fashion are completely irresponsible. It is ignoring the health battles of Australians, it is putting parents in the challenging situation of having to deal with the kids demands for these foods and it is leading us to eat much greater amounts of bad fat and calories than we would have if the foods where not placed directly under our noses, costing next to nothing.

Wollies, it is not the Australian peoples fault you bought too many Cheezels and now you have to get rid of them so please think about the health of your customers and stop trying to pass the crap onto us. Oh, and lift your game altogether when it comes to your 2 for 1 deals which encourage your customers to buy more soft drink, biscuits, confectionery and chocolate and your advertising campaigns that portray you as holier than thou, ignoring these other blatant opportunistic tendencies. You know you could use your power to really help improve the health of the Australian people, so why not give that a go, and leave the Cheezels out of it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Should we have a fat tax?

As our very own PM knows all too well, nothing can alter public opinion as quickly as talk of another tax can, and as expected after the relatively fit and health Danes announced this weekend that they would be adopting a “fat tax”, it seems that many thin and fat Aussies are more than happy to share their thoughts on the subject.

A “fat tax” is not a simple concept, it involves closely examining the nutritional profiles of all foods that are relatively high in fat, whether it is full cream milk, processed snack foods or fried fast foods to determine what is the best and fairest way to isolate those that are contributing significant amounts of “bad fat” into our diets. The tax has to consider natural sources of saturated fat such as those found in dairy foods and meats, as opposed to those simply used to process and make high fat foods as well as considering foods that may be high in fat but which may be made using “better” types of fat. What has resulted is a tax that targets foods which contain >2.4% saturated fat, and only the saturated fats that result from processing the food, as opposed to that which naturally occurs. This means that in the case of a burger, the saturated fat of the meat is not taxed, only the oil used in making the burger.

At this point in time, bureaucratic groups step in and argue that such a tax is unfair to those from lower socioeconomic groups, as they are the ones who end up paying relatively more for foods high in fat. It is the point in which consumer advocates hop on their high horse and argue that we should not be making unhealthy food more expensive rather healthy food cheaper. It is also the time where anyone in general starts to complain about all of our taxes including the more than 10 year old GST and of course, the carbon tax.

So here is the newsflash. Australia is one of the fattest countries in the world and high fat, fast food is cheap and readily accessible. Despite slightly increased government spending which has targeted obesity in this country, we are no thinner. Public health messaging is not working, we need more drastic action and we need it now, and most importantly, we need some $ to pay for the health costs associated with obesity long term.

In case you have not heard, it is almost impossible to make healthy food cheaper, if you want that food to come from Australia. Our farmers are already doing it tough and with two major supermarket chains monopolizing the food market, there is little room to move in terms of the cost of fresh and healthy food for the bulk of the population. On the other hand, increasing the price of high fat, calorie dense, nutrient poor foods including fast food, pastry, snack food and full cream dairy is a viable option. It makes unhealthy foods less accessible as well as creating an income stream to pay for the enormous long term health costs of a diet high in saturated fat. Indirectly, it also encourages our major manufacturers and ultimately food controllers of processed and fast foods to consider the quality of the ingredients they are using to make our food, and ultimately shift towards ingredient options that are lower in saturated fat.

We could talk forever about how unfair it is, how a fat tax ignores the health effects of sugar, and how disadvantaged groups are being unfairly targeted but at the end of the day, life is not fair and perhaps it is worth remembering that you are only taxed if you buy the crap food, simple as that.