The Institute for Optimum Nutrition is calling for consumers to opt for real food this winter, instead of overly processed diet food

Over the summer, the government announced a new obesity strategy amid fears that obesity could lead to a higher risk of serious illness, or death, from Covid-19. Displaying calories on menus and banning adverts for foods high in fat, sugar, and salt before 9 PM were just some of the measures that were put into place.

Taking what many considered a one-dimensional approach to obesity that didn't consider the harm it could cause, the government was quickly called out by eating disorder experts, body positive activists, and nutrition and medical experts.

As we head into winter, with the threat of a second wave approaching, the Institute for Optimum Nutrition believes what we need to do to stay well is eat a diet of 'real food'.

Heather Rosa, Dean of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition explains.

“While the Government is taking a shakes and soups approach to get the nation’s health under control, what is really needed is better education so that people can make the right choices for themselves and their families.

“With Covid-19 putting more pressure on us than ever and impacting the way people live, strong immune systems and optimal metabolic health are key, and these are achieved by eating nutritious, real food – not something that has been ultra-processed and requires a degree in chemistry to read the ingredients label.”

The organisation also highlights that body size shouldn’t be the only factor to consider, noting that a third of people living with type 2 diabetes have a normal BMI, and around 40% of people who develop metabolic syndrome have a normal BMI.

“While shedding a few pounds helps people look better on the outside, what is going on inside their bodies can be very different and this is another key consideration. If we focus on the quality of the food we’re eating, with or without weight loss, people will be less at risk of conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain kinds of cancer – this is called metabolic health.” Heather says.

Instead of being good for us, depriving ourselves and focusing solely on restricting calorie intake can in fact be detrimental. In her article, 'Why diets don’t work', registered dietitian Maureen Moerbeck tells us more about the pitfalls of dieting.

“When we diet or restrict our food intake we can cause some immediate detrimental effects on our body. About two-thirds of our daily energy requirements are for the essential functions in our body, just to keep us alive. These functions include keeping our heart pumping, lungs inflating, kidneys filtering, blood circulating and brain neurons firing – and that’s if we were fast asleep in bed, not moving a muscle.”

So if dieting isn’t going to support our health, what will? Heather encourages us to see food in a different light.

“The next time you are at the shops, just stop and think about the food that will fuel, repair and protect your body, rather than focusing on calorie labels or food marketed for ‘dieters’.”

Focusing on nutrients that can support your immune system, eating a varied diet, and supporting your gut health are some simple first steps you can take. Working with a nutrition professional can help, too – they will be able to offer tailored advice based on your personal circumstances and health goals.

You can find a qualified nutrition professional on Nutritionist Resource.