No Such Thing as a Bad Food? Think Again!

Good Food!

Recent research carried out at the Harvard School of Public Health calls into question the often cited weight-loss advice to “Eat Less, Exercise More” – advice which is over-simplistic. It also calls into question the food industry mantra that “there is no such thing as a bad food”.

The Harvard School of Public Health have an excellent website, carry out excellent research, and are unafraid to provide clear and unbiased advice.

In a series of three separate studies looking at diet and other lifestyle factors, researchers found that long-term weight gain was closely linked to:

  • Intake of specific foods and drinks
  • Physical activity
  • TV-watching
  • Sleep duration

In particular, changes in diet had the biggest effect on weight gain. The research appears in the June 23, 2011, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Preventing Obesity

The average person puts on excess weight very gradually – about 0.5 kg (1 lb) per year. Half a kilogram of excess weight isn’t much – but over the course of a few decades you can easily pile on 10 kg, ending up overweight or obese. The researchers at Harvard looked at data collected over a 20 year period, and the results paint an interesting picture of how weight gain creeps up on us. It also highlights which foods and lifestyle factors are most closely related to weight gain.

“An average adult gains about one pound per year. Because the weight gain is so gradual and occurs over many years, it has been difficult for scientists and for individuals themselves to understand the specific factors that may be responsible,”

said lead author Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor and one of the authors of the research.

Name and Shame!

The research points to several foods as being most closely associated with weight gain:

  • Potato chips/crisps (for each one increased daily serving, +1.69 lb more weight gain every 4 years)
  • Other potatoes (1.28 lb)
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 lb)
  • Unprocessed meats (0.95 lb)
  • Processed meats (0.93 lb)

Good Foods!

Several foods were associated with less weight gain when their consumption was increased, including vegetables (−0.22 lb), whole grains (−0.37 lb), fruits (−0.49 lb), nuts (−0.57 lb) and yogurt (−0.82 lb).

The bottom line? Eating more of certain foods can actually help prevent weight gain. Avoiding other key “bad” foods can also help avoid weight gain. The take home message:

  • Eat more minimally processed foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, nuts, yogurt)
  • Avoid highly processed foods (e.g. white breads, bagels, processed meats, cakes)
  • Avoid sugar
  • Avoid sugary drinks & sweets
  • Eat fewer potatoes and refined grains (white rice, breakfast cereals low in fiber, other refined carbohydrates)

If you’re overweight, we recommend avoiding sugar and refined grains – including bread, pasta & white rice.

Why should the type of food we eat influence long-term weight gain? Surely it’s all about how many calories we take in (by eating food) balanced against calories we burn (by being active)?

Good Foods vs Bad Foods

It turns out that not all calories are created equal. Different foods have different effects on hunger, insulin levels, and feelings of fullness (satiety) – so eating more of certain foods may help us to eat more healthily.

Nuts, fruits, vegetables and whole grains are unprocessed – it takes time to chew them and digest them. If you eat more of these foods, you feel full for longer – so overall, you’ll consume fewer calories over the course of a day.

By way of contrast, when you eat sweets, the calories are easily absorbed and you will not feel full for long – you’ll soon be ready for more empty calories in a vicious cycle of over-consumption.

According to Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard and senior author of the paper: “The idea that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods is a myth that needs to be debunked.”

The following video shows Dr Mozaffarian talking about the research:

The research also found that TV watching and sleep habits were linked to long-term weight gain:

  • More TV watching was linked to weight gain
  • Sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours per night was linked to weight gain

Overall, the weight-changes associated with any one lifestyle change were fairly small. However, together they added up – especially for diet. Small lifestyle changes can together make a big difference – for bad or good.

It is easy to gain weight unintentionally – excess weight creeps up on us gradually over a number of years. However, making simple lifestyle changes has the potential to help prevent and treat obesity.

Mindful Eating

healthy eating & weight loss
Do you feel the need to clear your plate at every meal? Do you eat your food quickly? These habits can lead to over-eating and weight gain

Most of us are programmed to finish the food that is on our plate. We’ve been brainwashed since childhood into a fear of wasting food, and the meal isn’t over until the plate is clean. To make matters worse, most of us eat too quickly – we bolt our food down as if it’s our last meal and we eat “on the go”- too busy to sit and eat properly.

These habits lead to over-eating and weight-gain. Our body tells us that we’re full, but we don’t notice because our brain is saying “clear the plate!”, or we’re too busy concentrating on something other than the food in front of us.

Luckily you can take simple measures to help you eat more mindfully. If you pay attention to what you are eating, rather than just mindlessly ploughing through your food, you’ll be less likely to over-eat.

Before Eating

Only start eating WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY. This may sound simplistic, but many of us eat out of habit, or at the slightest feeling of hunger. Hunger is not something to be feared – it is a natural feeling, and you shouldn’t seek food every time you are hungry. On the other hand, don’t wait until you are over-hungry – as you’ll be more likely to overeat.

  • Never eat while standing up – always sit down to eat
  • Allow yourself at least 30 minutes to eat your main meals – set that time aside and do not rush
  • Put your food on a plate – do not eat food from the pan or straight from the worktop or the toaster
  • Do not over-fill your plate – leave 10% of your food off your plate and your stomach won’t even notice
  • Always have a glass of water with your meal
  • For main meals, set the table (knife, fork and glass of water)
  • Before you start eating, sit and take a few deep breaths
  • Take a sip from a glass or bottle of water before eating

While You Are Eating

  • Decide which bit of your meal looks the best, and eat that food first – don’t save it for last as you will be more likely to mindlessly plough through your food and eat more than you need.
  • Don’t slouch – sit up straight while you are eating
  • When you put food into your mouth, put your fork down and concentrate on the food in your mouth
  • Chew your food carefully before swallowing – enjoy the taste and texture of the food
  • Chew every mouthful of food
  • Swallow slowly – don’t gulp air with your food
  • Don’t talk whilst eating
  • Halfway through your meal, take a break for at least 2 minutes – sip water, and try to work out how much more food you will need to be full
  • If you start to feel full, STOP EATING
  • You DO NOT have to clear your plate – if you are full, stop eating

After Eating

When you are finished your meal, push your plate away immediately. Throw the remaining food away or carefully store it out of sight – ready for your next meal. Remember that you can eat again when you are hungry.

General Rules

Don’t be distracted while eating as you’ll be more likely to over-eat.

  • Never eat whilst watching TV
  • Don’t eat whilst driving
  • Don’t eat whilst talking or texting on the phone
  • Don’t eat whilst walking


  • Get ready to eat mindfully: Only eat when hungry, take a few deep breaths before eating, allow enough time to eat your meal and always sit down to eat
  • Eat Mindfully: Chew every mouthful, eat the tastiest looking food first, take breaks during your meal, sip water during your meal and stop eating when you are full
  • After your meal: Throw away or store any excess food, take some deep breaths and notice how full you feel
  • Remember that you can eat again when you are hungry

If you’re in the Shannon area and need help with weight loss, find out more about our services: contact us or give us a call on 087 930 7575.

Lose Pounds – Drink Water!

Switching to water can help you lose a substantial amount of weight - ditch your fizzy drink habit today!

Drinking water instead of fizzy drinks can help you lose 5% of your bodyweight (4 to 5 pounds), according to new research carried out at the University of North Carolina.

The research followed 318 people with a weight problem as they switched from fizzy drinks (like Coke, Fanta, Sprite and 7up) to sugar free alternatives and water. The study clearly showed that switching to water or diet soft drinks can be a simple way to lose weight.

Get Rid of Fizzy Drinks!

Switching to water had the greatest benefit and was linked to other important health improvements – like reduced blood sugar and better hydration levels. Reducing your blood sugar levels reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes – a dangerous illness that commonly affects people who are above a healthy weight. The study is published online and scheduled to appear in the March 2012 print issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Drink Water

Our advice is to totally avoid fizzy drinks – drink water instead! Fizzy drinks are full of sugar, and there is also evidence that they affect your bone health – some studies suggest that fizzy drink consumption increases your likelihood of getting brittle bones, or osteoporosis. Here are some quick tips to help make the change away from fizzy drinks:

  • Don’t buy fizzy drinks when you are doing your grocery shopping – if they’re not in the house, you’ll be less likely to drink them
  • Keep water easily available – on your desk at work, in a jug on your kitchen table, or in a bottle in the fridge
  • Does your tap water taste bad? Get a filter, or buy bottled water
  • Add some slices of lemon, lime or orange (or all three!) to give water an extra zing!
  • Be careful of fruit juices as even pure fruit juice is full of free sugar – dilute fruit juice with mineral water
  • Like the fizz? Use sparkling water and add a twist of lemon as a healthier alternative to fizzy drinks
  • If you are trying to lose weight, drink a glass of water before a meal, and drink water with your meal
  • Try switching to herbal teas – a great alternative to fizzy drinks

Stay Hydrated

A good way to check your hydration level is to keep an eye on your pee. It should be light coloured and relatively non-smelly. If it is dark coloured and strong smelling, drink more water.

The Bottom Line

If you’re watching your weight, fizzy drinks are a disaster! Switch to water & herbal teas today. It’ll help you shed pounds, and reduce your risk for some really nasty illnesses. You’ll also save yourself a fortune.

If you’re in the Shannon area and need help with weight loss, find out more about our services: contact us or give us a call on 087 930 7575.

Healthy Breakfast: Porridge

Healthy Breakfast
Grab a healthy breakfast - it'll help you maintain a healthy weight and will provide you with energy for your daily workout!

Just wanted to share my super-healthy breakfast. I can’t stomach eating straight after getting up, so I normally tuck in to a healthy breakfast at my desk as I’m starting work. Anti-social? Maybe, but I don’t care!

Today’s healthy brekkie:

  • Porridge made with jumbo oats
  • Stewed apple (made in bulk, stored in fridge)
  • Walnuts
  • Banana

Lets break it down:


The slow-release energy from the oats will help fuel my lunchtime exercise session – as well as the workshop I’m delivering later to a bunch of rowdy 12 year olds. The porridge will keep me full all morning, so I won’t be snacking during tea-break. Full of soluble fibre and anti-oxidants, oats are a super-healthy food.


Great for the heart and circulatory system, full of vitamin E. Many of the beneficial flavonols in walnuts are found in the skin.


Full of potassium & fibre, helping prevent high blood pressure.


Another heart-protective food, can help you to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce blood-lipid (fat) levels.

Weighing it Up…

Having a healthy breakfast will help you to balance your energy intake, helping you reach and maintain a healthy weight. If you’re worried about your weight, don’t skip breakfast! If you don’t fancy porridge, try home-made muesli, which contains many of the same beneficial ingredients.


I’ve had a nasty virus lately so felt like I needed an extra boost – hence the two fruit + nut topping – normally I might just go for the stewed apple or a blob of honey. If you keep varying the toppings, porridge needn’t be boring. Total high-performance breakfast: enhancing physical & mental performance and excellent for health!

Share your healthy breakfast – leave a comment below!