Curb winter weight gain: Trim takeaway tips from nutrition experts

The DAA says that nearly half of all Australian adults are expected to pile on the kilos over winter, prompting calls to reign in fatty takeaways and discretionary foods over the cooler months.


The figures, from a survey by the NSW Food Authority and NSW Health, show 38 per cent of women and one in two men (53%) are expected to gain up to five kilograms over winter, which may not be lost later in the year.


According to the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), the professional body representing dietitians nationally, striking the right energy in-energy out balance, needed to maintain a healthy weight, can be more difficult during winter.


Nine in 10 respondents in the NSW Food Authority and NSW Health survey say they eat more takeaways during winter to help them feel warmer and happier. But according to DAA, these foods tend to be higher in energy (kilojoules), saturated fat, added sugar and salt, and lower in nutrition.


The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that household expenditure on meals out and fast food has increased by 50 per cent from 2004-5 to 2009-10, with the latest figures showing more than $30 per week spent on fast food and takeaway, compared to just $13.70 on vegetables and $9.60 on fruit.


“When it comes to takeaways and fast foods, extra kilojoules can creep in easily. There are so many options available, many packed full of kilojoules, and large portions being offered at bargain prices. This makes it really difficult if you’re trying to eat well and avoid winter weight gain,” said DAA Spokesperson Charlene Grosse.


“Fatty takeaway foods are tempting in winter, when all you feel like doing is curling up under a blanket with a comfort food in hand. By making smart choices, you can help keep your energy balance in check,” said Ms Grosse, who is an Accredited Practising Dietitian.


She said healthy takeaway options are available, and encouraged Australians to request tweaks to favourite fast foods.


Trim your takeaway to make it healthier with Ms Grosse’s suggestions below:

  • Ask for extra salad in your hamburger and skip the bacon, fried onion and stick to one meat pattie

  • Go for small portions of gourmet style pizzas, topped with vegetables, lean meat or seafood and opt for a thin crust

  • Try a jacket potato with creamed corn, baked beans or salad toppings

  • Choose wholegrain sandwiches with lean meat, chicken or egg, and lots of salad

  • Opt for grilled fish with vegetables, or a grilled fish burger with salad

  • Try pasta with a tomato-based sauce (instead of cream-based)

  • Order skin-free chicken or remove it before eating

  • Choose vegetables or salad and water with a meal deal, rather than chips and soft drink

  • Go for a vegetable-based soup as a winter-warmer.

A study involving 1,319 adults showed that those who spent the least amount of time cooking at home, were almost twice as likely to visit fast food restaurants at least weekly, compared with those who spent more time in the kitchen.


“Having a few quick and easy meal ingredients such as pizza bases, pasta sauces, vegetables, lean meats and ready-prepared legumes like lentils and chickpeas on hand at home will help you prepare ‘healthy takeaway’ at home, and save you money,” Ms Grosse concluded.


For information on fast food and takeaways, see the DAA’s Nutrition A-Z page in the Smart Eating for You section of the website


Editors comment:

When the discussion turns to junk food our minds have been conditioned to think about McDonalds, Hungry Jacks, Kentucky Fried and the pizza places like Domino's and Pizza Hut – rightly so!


But if we want to know who the real Junk Food Kings are – the real "junk food people", we have to think seriously about Woolworths and Coles and the part they play in Australia's increasingly obvious fatathon.


Coles, Wollies and the other supermarkets run isle after isle with lollies, soft drinks, pre-packaged edibles and yummies in huge number, type an variety that are "down down" on nutrition and "up up" in fats, sugars, salt and carbohydrates. It's almost enough to block your arteries just thinking about them.


And of course you don't just put these copious delectables into one paper bag and take them home, you need a whole trolley so that the goodies can be eaten all day long – breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, supper and for bed time snack too.


So, if the Junk Food Kings' marketing strategies don't tempt you to put on the kilos this winter with their superior range of faterfiers, then the second tier small burger and pizza places might.


On second thought, it might be just as well to take the advice of the Dietitians Association of Australia and create your own easy to make nutritious, delicious, warm home-made meals that fill the kitchen with lovely smells on cool but cosy winter evenings.


26 May 2015.