Eating in moderation

You may have heard the experts telling us to 'eat in moderation' but what does this 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! Eating behaviours are complex and influenced by many different factors on any given day.

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. Moderation is:

  • eating for pleasure and enjoyment until you have had just enough
  • listening to your hunger and satiety cues
  • eating a variety of foods within a day and over the days of the week
  • eating your meal slowly and stopping when you are satisfied, rather than overfull
  • eating more on days where you are more active and a little less on days when you are not

Here are the top five foods and drinks that should be eaten in moderation:

  1. Alcohol: alcohol packs a calorie punch. Keep to the Australian Dietary Guidelines of one to four standard drinks per day with at least two alcohol free days per week.
  2. Sugar: added sugars in foods contribute to weight gain over time, but they are also detrimental to your teeth. While these foods are delicious, save them for a special treat.
  3. Animal fats: high levels of saturated fats and cholesterol are in animal fats, which can contribute to heart disease and stroke. This is why crispy chicken skin, the juicy fat on lamb chops or crunchy pork crackling is best consumed once per month or less.
  4. Sweetened drinks: soft drink, cordial, iced tea, flavoured milks and energy drinks contain plenty of added sugars with little nutritional 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 nutritional benefits, but this is a case where more is not better. Aim for two serves of fruit per day, if you are particularly active you may like to include an extra serve. Fruit can be high in sugar and may upset some people’s digestive system if consumed in large amounts.