When attempting to live a healthier lifestyle, it easy to find yourself thinking you’ve ‘fallen off the band wagon’ or that many ‘diets’ seem so extreme they look an impossible mountain to climb.
When it seems so hard, why bother?
Eating and living well is worthwhile for short and long-term health benefits. Think increased energy, mood and bodily functions, and reducing risks for chronic diseases and living a longer, better quality life.
But if making a shift toward a healthier way of eating seems too much – take heart!
A recently released study from the U.S. has shown that one specific dietary change can inadvertently result in a cluster effect stimulating other positive dietary shifts.1
Researchers wanted to assess if adjusting a single component in a person’s diet or lifestyle could result in broader changes toward healthy eating.
292 people were split into 2 groups – group one required to take part in a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) reduction intervention, and group two to take part in a physical activity intervention.
For 6 months, participants were monitored for spontaneous changes to the overall dietary quality and other dietary components.
The results? Researchers found those in the SSB group experienced significant dietary shifts.
While SSB intake reduced by a third, so did overall added sugar intake. There were increases in vegetable intake and overall healthy eating scores, and significant decreases in trans fatty acid, total beverage energy and total energy intake. Excellent!
The researchers suggest that one major change in dietary behaviour – in this case, cutting back on the sweetened drinks – can act as “a gateway”, resulting in a cluster effect that sees individuals being motivated to make other beneficial dietary choices.
What do we take from this?
It is important to remember that when attempting to improve the quality of what we eat and drink (including less processed and more real food), not to be too hard on yourself. Small changes can really make a difference.
By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med)
- Hedrick, VE, Davy, BM, You, W, Porter, KJ, Estabrooks, PA, & Zoellner, JM 2017, ‘Dietary quality changes in response to a sugar-sweetened beverage-reduction intervention: results from the Talking Health randomized controlled clinical trial’, The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 105, no. 4, pp. 824-833.