There's lots to consider when it comes to changing your diet. We spoke to Heather Rosa, Dean at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, about how to make changes safely.

Is it important to reflect and review your diet regularly?

“Reviewing one’s diet is becoming more and more prevalent now. I see sections of the population who can afford good food becoming more mindful and conscious of what they are eating and how it impacts on the environment. Unfortunately, with the rise of celebrity bloggers, the information being received is not always based on a rigorous critique of the evidence. We are getting more interested in the seasonality of food, the provenance of food and the quality of food. People are beginning to be more educated.

“I do believe it's useful every so often to look at what you're doing. It is challenging as we live a fast, crazy lifestyle where we want simple solutions and that's where convenience foods come in. There are convenience foods out there which are healthier than others. It's just a question of choice.

Are recipe boxes a good idea?

"Recipe box schemes are becoming more popular. Fresh foods are sent to you with a recipe to cook at home. These recipe boxes build confidence in cooking from scratch, skills sadly lost for a generation of adults in the UK, providing a sense check on portion sizes, and bringing people together around food.

“It's interesting that we've gone from total convenience and now coming back to more involvement in the actual cooking of foods. People are trying new flavours and tastes and, at some point, they will hopefully start to cook their own foods from scratch and develop their skill set. I think we're going to see much more of these recipe boxes and some even focusing on particular aspects of health, for example, low carb recipe boxes for type two diabetes which is the major problem in the UK at the moment.”

How much of an impact does social media, celebrities and the media have on our food choices?

“One of the biggest problems we have now is a generation lacking in skills in terms of buying food, what to look for, what's nutritious, what goes with what, how long you cook it for and how long you store it for. Cooking has become a spectator sport. There is only a small percentage who, after watching the programmes on television, will recreate these recipes.

 “A huge star shared a ginger and cayenne water diet, and a vegan diet for getting ready for a big show. Lots of young girls copied this and it was not a healthy choice, especially when iron deficiency is already an issue for young girls. We live in a social media world where influencers have huge followings and there appears to not always be enough education alongside celebrity diet claims. I would champion young people to challenge facts and figures or to question social media influencers’ advice, of which usually comes from sponsors.”

Nutritional therapists don't just work with people who are unwell. We work with people who want to stay well

What steps would you recommend taking to change your diet?

“I believe diversity is important in the diet. Source whole foods as unprocessed as possible. From there on in it gets more complicated as you look at the individual's needs, especially if there is a complicated health history, but diversity and a variety of foods remains key. Keep your diet colourful.

 “Keep sugar to a minimum and also don't eat all the time. The human body wasn't designed for all the high-date based, raisin-based snack bars that claim to be healthy snack options. We need to keep some distance between our meals, at least four hours. Our body needs to recuperate from the digestive process rather than being stimulated continually with food input. Every time you drink or eat something, it goes into the intestinal tract.

 “Your immune system is protecting you from the outside world and only allowing in components of the diet that are good for you. Thus every time you eat your immune system is activated. This then requires energy. That requires nutrients, resources to power it and so we need to give it some downtime. We need to let our tummies have a break.”

What's your top piece of advice for anyone considering changing their diet?

“Seek really good sources of advice or maybe even have a session with a registered nutritional therapist. Nutritional therapists don't just work with people who are very unwell. We work with people who want to stay well. For instance, if you want to prevent or delay a condition because it's in the family or those that just want to improve their fitness, a session with a nutritional therapist could be a good place to start where you can actually sit down and discuss your own individual needs.

“Nutritional Therapists are trained in a personalised approach. They listen to your life and health story and understand the environment and the context in which you eat and then personalise their nutrition advice. In this day and age we can even meet online through video call as well as in-person in a professional clinic setting.”

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