Catherine Saxelby has dedicated her career to helping people make the most informed food choices to live more energised, healthier lives. For Catherine, healthy food shouldn’t be overcomplicated or overpriced, it’s all about simple staples of fresh vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish, nuts, beans and legumes.
Here, Catherine explores how the role of a dietitian has evolved, the healthiest food products to hit supermarket shelves and what to keep in mind when dining out.
You have published over 2000 articles on nutrition – do you ever find you are repeating the same message?
Yes, often, but that is part of the job as I see it. The experts often say you’ve got to ‘repeat, repeat, repeat’ the same message before your readers pick it up and grasp it. I don’t think it’s any different in any other field.
How has the role of a dietitian changed over the years?
When I started out as a young dietitian, almost all dietitians worked in hospitals helping sick people with special medical diets as well as tube feeds and formulae. Today, most work in wellness with a big focus on corporate health and living longer through a healthy lifestyle. It’s a good shift – it helps keep people out of hospital!
Do you think the boom in food and nutrition apps is having any impact on people’s diets?
Only specific areas where one can count and measure things like calories/kilojoules, salt, fat and fibre as well as recipes and packaged info. But there’s no substitute for personalised advice from a professional and reading up in your area of need.
If people were to pin a note on their fridge with your top food tips, what would it contain?
- Eat slowly. Chew your food well
- Listen to your stomach – stop when you’re at a comfortable 5 out of 10 full
- Keep portions modest
- Don’t drink alcohol each and every night
- Drink more water
- Eat a salad a day
- Don’t buy junk food – if it’s not in the cupboard, you won’t be tempted. Nor will the kids
What have been the best food products to hit the market to make healthy eating easier?
- Bagged salad leaves
- Pre-cut pumpkin and other vegetables
- Bags and products that slow down the ripening of fresh produce
- Single-serve sachets of oats and wholegrain cereals
- Authentic plain Greek yoghurt
- Punnets of cherry tomatoes for snacking
- Individual salmon fillet portions
- Baby Cukes (cucumbers) in a punnet for snacking
- Home-delivered fresh vegetables
- Unsalted nuts in single serve packs
- Nut bars – rather than muesli bars
- Diced peeled fruit (one from my lazy hubby!)
- Blueberries and other berries in smaller snack-sized punnets
- Soft drink in small 250ml cans rather than the never-finished 375ml cans
People often say that dietary advice always changes, do you agree?
No, the advice often changes at the fringes but the fundamentals always remain the same – eat more fresh food, avoid packet and processed products, eat more whole grains and fibre (really whole food), cut down on salt, sugar and bad fats, drink water, eat food as close to nature as possible.
Dining out continues to rise in Australia – what advice do you have for people looking to make healthy choices when they eat out?
Eat light – share a course or order two entrees. Share plates and tapas fare is a good option. Ignore meal deals as you often end up with too much food and if it ends up as WASTE it will end up around your WAIST. Best healthy options are Asian restaurants, for example Thai food, or Italian restaurants and ordering pasta and salad. Avoid fast food if you can.