5 Nutrition Mistakes Stopping You From Achieving Long-Term Health Goals

If your diet has fallen off the bandwagon, you’re probably considering going on a complete health kick to detox your insides. 

But before you go all out and start that 7-day juice cleanse, decide to give up carbs entirely (hello, keto diet) or cut your calorie-intake severely, it’s important you’re aware of the biggest nutrition mistakes you need to avoid so you can get back on the health wagon - and stay there for the long-term.

5 Biggest Nutrition Mistakes to Avoid, According to a Dietitian

1. Following fad diets 

These diets have been around forever, promising quick solutions that seem too good to be true. Catchphrases like “lose 15kg in 7 days” or “liver cleansing” are amongst the claims you might hear. 

Remember, the first principle of good nutrition is variety since restrictions can increase the risk of deficiency. 

Here are just a few examples of potential risks from popular fad diets:

  • No carbs = low B group vitamins and fibre intake
  • No animal products (especially red meat) = low iron, zinc and B12 intake
  • No dairy = low calcium and riboflavin (Vitamin B2) intake
  • High protein diets = hard for vegetarians, low glycogen=decreased ability to exercise, fatigue, increase in calcium loss, low fibre intake

The testimonials and celebrity endorsements you read can be very encouraging and relatable, however they cannot be used to assess how the general population will react to the dietary changes.

Dietary trials need to use very large numbers of people in order to validate whether the diet is actually beneficial, which fad diet promoters do not perform. So be careful who you get your information from, because a lot of these diets haven’t been tested over long periods of time to see how the body will react to certain restrictions. 

2. Eliminating entire food groups unnecessarily 

Whether it’s going dairy free or cutting gluten, it’s often entire food groups that get the boot when starting some type of “health kick”.

This could be down to misinformation, or finding a meal or food sets off digestive symptoms, so they quit it all together. While the latter might make sense at first, the problem might not be with that food at all. It could be a build-up of food chemicals throughout the day (and the food you’re blaming was just the cherry on top), an issue with FODMAPs, other food intolerances or sensitivities, or something else that won’t be solved by cutting out an entire food group without professional diagnosis or guidance. 

Chat to your doctor or dietitian to get to the bottom of any health concerns you might have to determine how evidence-based nutrition changes can help.

3. Making too many changes at once

While having a list of nutrition achievements to work towards can help, going too hard too fast can leave you giving up well before the finish line. 

Start with small habits and build up to bigger changes for best results. 

For example, if your goal is to reduce your meat intake, instead of turning vegetarian overnight, try bulking your meaty dishes with legumes or switching a couple of meat-based meals for vegetarian ones each week.

4. Not eating enough

Bottom line: if you don’t eat enough, your body will not work very well. It doesn’t lead to healthy and sustainable weight loss, and you’ll be more tired, distracted and irritable.

None of these symptoms are ideal, especially when you work, need to run a household and keep up with your health, all at the same time. If you’re the kind of person who “forgets to eat” or is trying to lose weight, keep easy, healthy foods in plain sight so you'll be more inclined to eat them. 

5. Eating mindlessly

It’s not just about what you eat but how you eat, too. It’s all well and good to choose veggies over chips or a salmon filet over a hamburger, but if you’re smashing it at the speed of light while scrolling through TikTok, you’ll be left feeling unsatisfied. 

Eating while distracted can lead to you ignoring your fullness cues and overeating. Some tips for mindful eating include switching off distractions like TV or phone screens, chewing slowly, putting your cutlery down between bites of food, and taking time to register the taste, smell and texture of your meal.

Explore more content like this in our series, Ask a Dietitian

Health & Performance Collective is the brainchild of Sydney Dietitians Jessica Spendlove and Chloe McLeod. They use their 20 years of combined knowledge and skills as dietitians to work with motivated people to live and perform at their best.

Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

Is calorie-counting really necessary? A dietitian give the (surprising) rundown here.

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