With so many different diets around, it can be confusing to know what is a healthy meal. That's because everyone's health goals should be unique to themselves. It’s interesting how you can believe that what you are eating for lunch is healthy
when it looks as good as this picture. And yes this is a reasonably healthy lunch. It also is important to consider your health goals. At the moment for myself, weight loss is not important, but increasing my veggie and dairy intake is.
So lets analyse this lunch and see what can be done for different health goals.
Firstly, this is a buttered toasted bagel with cheese, ham, tomato, lettuce and fermented carrot.
For my health goals, I wanted to add in the cheese as a couple of slices is 1 serve towards my goal of 2 serves a day. So I get a tick there.
Secondly, I added in extra tomato, not just a single layer. This is about ½ a medium tomato. I also cut my lettuce into shreds. When adding lettuce to a sandwich or roll, if you put on flat uncut lettuce it often looks like enough. What I have found is that if you cut up your lettuce it doesn’t look like much and you therefore are likely to eat more. So on this lunch there are 4 large leaves of Cos lettuce.
I also am a big fan of improving my gut microflora and therefore I try to have 1 or 2 serves of a probiotic type food. So this lunch has my fermented carrot (no I didn’t make it, but it is not so hard to make).
Looking at this amount of veggies, I estimate that I had close to 2 serves – my daily goal is 5.
If I wanted to lose weight, there are several things that I could change regarding this lunch.
First, swap the bagel for a multigrain bread roll. I was actually wanting to buy a multigrain bagel, but the shop was out of them when I was there. So normally I would go for a multigrain bagel due to the higher fibre content. But for weight loss, bagels contain about 2 times the kilojoule (calorie) content of a multigrain roll. So that’s an easy swap.
Next, swap full fat cheese for lower fat cheese. I was actually using a 25% less fat tasty cheese. I made the switch about 6 months ago and can honestly not taste the difference. There is also a 50% less fat cheese if you are serious about more weight loss.
Then, the next thing you could do would be to not butter it. That would save you about 600kJ (145Cal) if you are having about a tablespoon of butter. Using a similar amount of avocado instead of the butter would actually reduce your kilojoule content by nearly a third.
If my cholesterol was an issue, then dropping the butter would certainly help and adding the avocado would provide healthy fats that aid in reducing cholesterol. The high fibre content of the bread I choose would also be of benefit to my cholesterol.
I also use free range, organic, nitrate free ham, straight from the farmer (via the butcher!). This way, I am reducing the nitrates I consume which have shown an association with bowel cancer (1). Having said this, the science around what is the real cause of carcinogens in processed meat is still up for debate as the amount of nitrates now in processed meats has significantly reduced in the past 50 years while bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in Australia (2)
So you can see that some small changes can really positively or negatively affect your health goals, without compromising on taste. Because who really wants to eat a tasteless meal!
With so much confusion over what is a healthy diet, an Accredited Practicing Dietitian can help you develop some personalised changes according to your needs. Book in to see me and I will help you develop a plan specific to you!
 Cancer Council, "Red meat, processed meat and cancer," 2015. [Online]. Available: https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/1in3cancers/lifestyle-choices-and-cancer/red-meat-processed-meat-and-cancer/. [Accessed 8 September 2017].
 A. Ellis, "The raw truth about meat and cancer," April 2016. [Online]. Available: https://daa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/WH0416_F_SPECIAL_REPORT_MEAT1.pdf. [Accessed 12 October 2017].