"We aren't going to be able to change the influx of information we now have on food, so I think we have to be more discerning about what we take on," Dr Libby Weaver says.
"Your own body is your best barometer, and we can't be so attached to a [health trend or wellness label] that we miss the feedback from it."
This is one of the key messages of her latest book, which takes its title from the very question she gets asked the most, What Am I Supposed to Eat?
"Before the low-fat era, if you wanted an apple pie, you baked it yourself," explains the nutritional biochemist.
"Then the food industry got involved and there was an apple pie in the frozen section of the supermarket. Then there was a low-fat pie – and everyone knows this now – it was filled up with sugar, then salt to mask the sweetness. So through the low-fat era, people ate more salt and sugar than ever before in the entirety of human history, and they believed it was good for them.
"Nutrition information moves in about 30-year cycles; in the early 80s we started the low-fat era, and what came after was the high-protein era. This is nothing new, and it's always going to keep happening."
With all that in mind, Libby's rule of thumb for those who are feeling bamboozled by today's abundance of diet advice is simple: "when it comes to food, nature gets it right and human intervention can get it really wrong."
In What Am I Supposed to Eat?, the wellbeing warrior tackles everything from micronutrients to managing sugar intake, but she's quick to say that having the right mindset is the most important wellness tool of all.
"A lot of people end up making lousy food choices as they are very black and white; they always think of it as this 'wagon' that they could fall off," she says. "But if you eat some biscuits for afternoon tea one day and think 'I've ruined it', you won't go home and make great choices with that mentality.
"A better way to look at it is with curiosity. Think, 'I ate three biscuits – what led me to do that? Was I hungry? Or did I eat them because of an emotion?' The minute we judge, we go blind and we get no insight. Whereas when we bring curiosity, we're open to learning something, and from that, behaviour can change."
For more of Dr Libby's thoughts on healthy eating, see the January issue of Good Health Choices.
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