ASK THE EXPERTS
Australia’s leading nutrition experts answer your questions
A STRATEGIC SHIFT
Q My husband works irregular shifts in an area that has limited healthy food outlets. What and when should he eat during his night shifts?
Michelle, Albion, VIC Accredited Practising Dietitian Rebecca Lock says:
A The hours and location of your work can make healthy eating a challenge, but with a bit of planning, your husband can eat well regardless of the time and place. Here are my top tips for how to eat during a shift.
1 Eat regularly Aim to eat at least three times during a nine-hour shift — have two meals and a snack, or two snacks and a meal. Include plenty of salad or vegetables, lean protein (such as eggs), lean beef or chicken, and some grain-based food, such as wholegrain bread, pasta or rice.
2 Stay off the stimulants Energy drinks, soft drinks and caffeinated beverages can create a cycle of dependence, because when the first energy hit fades, you often reach for another right away. These drinks are often full of sugar, which can cause weight gain. Limit coffee to no more than three cups a day, and take a water bottle to work to stay hydrated.
3 Limit greasy takeaways The fast food available near shift-work environments can be high in salt, sugar and saturated fat, all of which can make you feel sluggish. If takeaway is your only option, choose a nutritious wrap or salad that will fill you up and provide the lasting energy you need for active work and shifts.
4 Plan ahead Keep some of your favourite healthy (non-perishable) foods at work so you can easily grab something when you’re hungry, and pack fresh foods each day, too.
Try some of these ideas:
• Chicken–salad sandwich
on wholegrain bread
• Baked beans on
• Reduced-fat cheese
and wholegrain crackers
• Yoghurt and fruit
• Unsalted nuts and seeds
• Wholegrain muesli bars
TIME TO EAT?
Q I’m trying to lose weight. Should I stop eating carbs at night? Michael, Lobethal, SA Associate Professor Tim Crowe says:
A It doesn’t really matter what time of day you eat — carbohydrates can’t tell the time! What’s important is how much you eat and how active you are during the day, because these amounts determine whether you gain, lose or maintain weight.
Of course, it’s much better to eat regular meals throughout the day to fuel your body and keep hunger in check. And eating less at night has its merits, too. You’ll cut back on the amount of food you eat and may even gain more energy, as going to bed on a full stomach can rob you of sleep.
Also, be aware that eating lots of extra food in the evening can point to unhealthy eating habits, especially if much of that food is fuelling couch-based ‘activities’.
When people were told to eat nothing from 7pm to 6am for a recent study, their daily energy intake dropped by an impressive 1000kJ (239cal) — and this small difference in energy was enough to see them lose 400g over the two-week restriction period.
If you feel like a snack after dinner, first consider how much you ate during the day. And try to avoid snacking in front of the TV — the distraction demands your attention, making it easier to overeat without realising.
THE FIBRE FIX
Q I frequently suffer from acute bouts of diverticulitis. Are there any foods I should eat to reduce the chances of an attack or ease the discomfort of a flare-up? Kaye, Richmond, NSW Accredited Practising Dietitian Brooke Longfield says:
A Diverticular disease is a painful condition in which small pockets form in the large bowel. The usual culprit is constipation, which increases the existing pressure in the bowel walls. When these intestinal pockets become inflamed, diverticulitis is the uncomfortable result. Unfortunately, this disorder is more common in summer, as dehydration can lead to constipation when we fail to drink enough water.
Experts once thought that diverticulitis sufferers should steer cleer of fibre-rich foods, such as nuts and seeds, but we now know they need to do the exact opposite. Eating a high-fibre diet helps keep stools soft and prevent the formation of more bowel pockets, thereby reducing your risk of an attack.
Try to eat at least five serves of vegies as well as two serves of fruit every day. Swap white bread, white rice and refined breakfast cereals for high-fibre versions, such as soy–linseed bread, brown rice or wholemeal pasta and untoasted muesli or bran. Legumes (chickpeas, lentils and beans) are also great sources of fibre, and you can easily add them to meat-based dishes such as bolognese. When you add extra fibre to your diet, remember to drink plenty of fluids, because fibre draws a lot of water into the bowel to soften stools and ease their passage. During a flare-up, the intestine is very inflamed, so you’ll have to reduce your fibre intake to allow the bowel to rest. In extreme cases, your doctor may ask you to stick to a diet of clear fluids, such as water and broth, for a few days. When symptoms subside, you can slowly return to your healthy high-fibre diet.
Drink lots of fluids while you increase your fibre intake