Australia's purest water

By Dr Joanna McMillan

Joanna is a registered nutritionist and dietician with a PhD in nutritional science from the University of Sydney. She is the resident nutrition expert for Channel 9’s Today Show, contributor to magazines including Life Etc and Slimming & Health and author of numerous books including Inner Health Outer Beauty, Star Foods and the Low GI Diet.

High protein diets are not new — they were first around in the 1960s before losing favour to the low fat way of thinking. As the latter approach has clearly failed to curb our international growing problem with obesity, high protein diets have regained ground. Scientific research has now given much credence to the approach. Protein has indeed been shown to be the most satiating of the three major macronutrients (the others being carbs and fat) and a higher protein intake does indeed seem to be able to help most people to lose weight and keep it off. But rather worryingly to me this is being taken by some to mean carbs are bad and all proteins are good.

The problem with cutting the carbs is first and foremost that we cannot feed the world on such a diet. The human race has grown to such numbers primarily because we have been so adaptable in what we can eat. We just don’t have enough land to sustain a high meat diet for us all. Secondly grains, legumes, fruits and dairy products all provide carbohydrates and provided we make the best choices such foods have many health benefits. Bottom line is you needn’t cut out the carbs to get the benefits of a little more protein.

Skip the protein powders, high protein bars and other manufactured and processed foods. Why go down the same wrong road as we have done previously with low fat foods? Processed food is not what we should be eating — period. Doesn’t matter the levels of protein, carb or fat, it’s still processed. Go instead for the many fabulous natural protein-rich foods we have on offer and include at least one at each meal. The best include chicken and turkey meat (skin removed), free range eggs, all fish and seafood, game meats such as venison, lean preferably free range meats, liver (not to all tastes but highly nutritious), low fat dairy products and for the vegetarians lentils, beans, tofu and tempeh. Nuts and seeds also provide small but significant levels of protein so make a great sustaining snack.

In a nutshell

Choose more often
Free range chicken & turkey
Free range eggs
Omega-3 rich free range eggs
Lean meat, free range if possible
Low fat dairy
Fish & seafood
Lentils & beans
Tofu & tempeh
Nuts & seeds
Choose less often
Sausages & burgers — most are made with the poorest quality meat, lots of fillers, lots of fat & chemical preservatives
Cured meats such as bacon & ham — these contain lots of salt & nitrite preservatives
Fatty cuts of meat — you’ll get too much saturated fat alongside your protein
Commercial croissants, pastries, cakes, biscuits
Full fat dairy foods — ditto to above
Commercial high protein bars, supplements & drinks — these are processed foods, expensive & not necessary
Cage eggs — these might be cheaper but if you have any consideration of care for the animals that provide us with food you’ll never buy these again
Ditto for regular chicken meat