Week Two

In this week's update, Professor Ashley explains why we crave fatty foods, and how we can all make small changes to improve our diet...

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

Eating regularly is important - if you allow yourself to get really hungry you’ll eat whatever is available at the time, which tends to be higher in calories and higher in fat than if you had eaten a healthy breakfast.

If you don’t eat breakfast with the notion you’ll eat less throughout the day, be honest with yourself: does skipping breakfast make you snack later in the morning? A packet of crisps or a chocolate bar is higher in calories than having breakfast.

Cooked breakfasts and greasy foods - why do we crave them?

These foods are very energy dense; there’s lots of calories and energy in a small volume and in evolutionary terms we have a drive to seek out foods that are high in energy to ensure that we survive the next famine.

We are not evolved to live in the environment we do now with high-energy dense foods in abundant supply. The fat in these foods also carry the flavour components of food; they are in abundance and they taste good.

It’s more challenging to make low-fat foods have the same level of taste, as the fat molecules carry the flavour and mouth-feel we like.

If someone has had a bad diet their whole life is it possible to change? Is it possible to start craving and enjoying healthy food?

Of course people can change; if they have the support, motivation and the right environment, change can happen. In our environment, we’re constantly bombarded with food in lots of different forms, it’s easily and readily available.  

We have a job to do as a society to change this. But as individuals, just being aware of the pressure we are exposed to eat high-fat, energy-dense foods can make us more able to resist these pressures.

Sometimes it takes a major life event for people to make the change (perhaps when they’ve had a heart attack or developed diabetes) before they say ‘I have to change now’. Everyone can make small changes now - really people who are overweight should think about it and make a change before a momentous life event.

It’s never too late to establish new habits and eventually, rather than an effort, the new way of eating becomes a habit. The rewards in feeling better and being able to do more makes it all worthwhile.

What are your opinions on fad diets - are they sustainable and how successful are they?

The bottom line is that healthy eating and lifestyles are something to maintain, they’re not something you do for a couple of weeks and then revert back to old habits. And yes, most of them are unsustainable.

What we want are changes that are sustainable - a whole new way of eating that fits in with you and your family, eating foods you enjoy. It should just become what you do, rather than what you do for a couple of weeks.