Obesity is an increasingly common health issue, with more than 63% of Australians considered overweight or obese.
Over $800 million is spent each year by Australians trying to lose weight, yet this is still an enormous problem for a growing number of individuals.
To try and combat the obesity epidemic, MLA Nutrition commissioned Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) Melanie McGrice and social researcher Dr Rebecca Huntley to create the Live Well Eating Plan, a diet plan catered to the way people actually eat.
We spoke to Melanie McGrice about changing poor eating habits, why so many Australians have weight issues and tips for maintaining long-term weight loss.
RESCU: It feels like health information is more abundant than ever but the problem continues to worsen! In your opinion, why are so many Australians still overweight or obese?
Melanie McGrice: I believe that it is predominantly due to the culture that we live in. People ‘know’ that they need to increase their physical activity, but they find it challenging when they would rather just relax in front of the television, and they ‘know’ that they need to avoid eating too many treat foods, but they find it difficult when they are tempted by taste, stressful lifestyles and advertising compelling them to buy treat foods.
RESCU: High protein, low GI diets have been popular for some time now. Can you tell us a little about the science behind them?
Melanie McGrice: Both higher protein and low GI foods have independently been found to provide an increased feeling of fullness and satiety. The result is that when restricting kilojoules, it may be easier to stick to a higher protein, lower GI eating plan.
DioGENES (Diet, Obesity and GENES study), one of the world’s largest weight maintenance studies, had overweight adults lose weight rapidly over an eight week period with a low kilojoule diet, then randomised participants to one of five different dietary regimes to investigate weight maintenance. The diets compared included a lower protein, lower GI diet, a lower protein, higher GI diet, a higher protein, higher GI diet, a higher protein, lower GI diet and a control diet. Those on a higher protein, lower GI diet maintained the most weight loss after six months.
Afolabi et al (2007) found that a higher protein, lower GI diet increases satiety and Delbridge et al (2010) found that people consuming higher protein, lower GI diets had improved dietary compliance.
RESCU: What is unique about the Live Well plan? We know deprivation only leads to blow-outs – what makes this diet plan different?
Melanie McGrice: One of the most important factors when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight is a healthy mindset. If you’re planning on having regular ‘blowouts’ then you’re already setting yourself up to fail. One of the best things about the Live Well Plan is that it ISN’T a diet; instead it’s an eating plan. It’s much more realistic than most ‘diets’ as it at least understands that there are going to be times when you’d like to have coffee and cake with a dear old friend.
As an Accredited Practising Dietitian, I am often surprised at how many people still turn to dangerous fad diets to help them lose weight instead of eating plans based on science. Fad diets cut out core food groups, resulting in nutritional deficiencies and often a long-term impact on one’s metabolism.
The Live Well Plan is flexible and based on familiar foods. It focuses on eating more of the right foods in the right amounts to meet nutrient needs while losing weight. There are no special recipes or diet products required.
RESCU: What are your top three tips for long-term weight loss?
1. Ensure that you are meeting your protein requirements
2. Learn to watch your portion sizes
3. Include a minimum of 45 minutes of planned physical activity each day as per the Australian recommendations
RESCU: If there are any parents out there worried about their children’s weight, would this diet plan suit? Any advice for them?
Melanie McGrice: It is important for both children and adults to include all of the key food groups daily, such as lean meat, fish and eggs, wholegrain, high fibre and low GI grain foods, dairy foods, vegetables, fruit and healthy oils and spreads. There is no need to cook special meals for children on this eating plan, just adjust the portion sizes so they are child appropriate. If you are worried about your child’s weight, see an Accredited Practising Dietitian for individually tailored advice and support.
Vietnamese Grilled Beef Salad
4 x 200g sirloin steaks, trimmed of fat
2 carrots, sliced into ribbons using a peeler
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
125g vermicelli noodles
¼ wombok (Chinese cabbage), finely shredded
1 cucumber, sliced into ribbons using a peeler
150g snow peas, sliced diagonally
½ cup mint leaves
¼ cup peanuts (plain, unsalted), chopped, to serve
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
3 tbsps lime juice
3 tbsps sugar
1 tbsps fish sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
1. Brush the steaks with oil and season with pepper. Place a chargrill pan over high heat and cook the steak for
3 minutes each side for medium rare or until cooked to your liking. Rest.
2. Peel the carrot into ribbons with a vegetable peeler and toss with the rice vinegar. Leave to pickle for 10
3. Cover the vermicelli in boiling water for 5 minutes or until tender, drain and rinse with cold water, drain
again. Combine the dressing ingredients.
4. Combine the cabbage, carrot plus pickling liquid, vermicelli, cucumber, snow peas and mint leaves and toss
with dressing. Top the salad with sliced beef and peanuts.
1. Taste the seasoning of the dressing after you’ve added it to the rest of the salad and adjust depending on
2. Sirloin steaks are sometimes called New York steaks.
Find out more about The Live Well Plan here
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