You may have heard the experts telling us to ‘eat in moderation’, but what does moderation actually mean? Moderation, by definition, is the avoidance of excess or extremes, especially in one’s behaviour. When it comes to eating behaviours we are influenced by a myriad of factors such as our cultural and family upbringing, our likes and dislikes, cost, where we live, seasons and the weather, our life stage and growth, mood and emotions, the list goes on! So defining excess eating behaviours for an elderly lady may be quite the norm for a highly active teenage male. Similarly, extreme eating behaviours may be vegan eating for one individual; for another it may be a meat lover’s pizza! Eating behaviours are complex and influenced by many different factors on any given day and over days in the week.

Finding your personal level of moderation in eating is not only important for good health but also to balance your thoughts and feelings around food. There is some good evidence that people who can find moderation in their eating behaviours reduce emotional eating, or using food as a response to emotions. An example of this might be having an argument with a partner and immediately reaching for a block of chocolate. Moderation in this example would be having a few squares of chocolate rather than devouring the whole block.

So what does moderation look like? Moderation is eating for pleasure and enjoyment until you have had just enough. Moderation is listening to your hunger and satiety cues. Moderation is eating a variety of foods within a day and over the days of the week. Moderation is eating your meal slowly and stopping when you are satisfied rather than overfull. Moderation is eating more on days where you are more active and a little less on days when you are not.

Research has shown that moderating your total food intake may increase longevity. In cultures where people eat only just enough, or approximately 85% of their requirements, they tend to live much longer, healthier lifespans. It may be that exercising a little moderation in eating could result in a longer, fitter life; that’s an experiment worth trying!

So what foods should we be on moderate on? Here are the top 5 foods and drinks that should be eaten in moderation, for most individuals:

1. Alcohol not only are their safety and health issues with high volume alcohol consumption, but alcohol also packs a calorie punch. Keep to the moderate guidelines of 1-4 (females on the lower end, higher for males) standard drinks per week.

2. Sugar – added sugars in foods such as lollies, cakes, biscuits and desserts not only contribute to weight gain over time, but they are also detrimental to your teeth. While these foods are delicious for a special treat, they should be eaten in moderation and only sometimes.

3. Animal fats – are high in saturated fats and cholesterol, which can contribute to heart disease and stroke. So while crispy chicken skin, the juicy fat on lamb chops or crunchy pork crackling may be delicious, it is best consumed once per month or less.

4. Sweetened drinks – examples such as soft drink, cordial, iced tea, flavoured milks and energy drinks contain plenty of added sugars with little nutrition value. They are also very easy to drink in large amounts. These should be consumed very infrequently and in small volumes.

5. Fruit – you may be quite surprised that fruit is on the list! Fruit certainly contains many nutrition benefits but this is a case where more is not better. Aim for 2-3 serves of fruit per day, if you are particularly active you may like to include an extra serve or 2. Fruit can be high in sugar and may upset some people’s digestive system if consumed in large amounts.

In our modern world where extremes and excess can sometimes be viewed as the norm, consider eating an area where moderation is the goal!

This blog kindly been provided by Lauren from Eat Smart Nutrition for education purposes. Eat Smart Nutrition are specialists in performance nutrition – performance in life, performance in sport & training and performance in your health goals. If you would like help achieving your performance or health goals, contact Eat Smart on [email protected] or check out our website or social media Eat Smart Nutrition QLD/Eat Smart Nutrition Consultants.

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