ARE you guilty of not eating certain foods because you were told they were bad for you? Or convinced that "fat-free" is healthy? You're not alone.
We're plating up our top 10 food myths so you can cook with confidence, variety and flavour.
1. Fruit is sugary and you shouldn't eat it
Poor old fruit. It has copped an unfair rep lately. Fruit contains naturally-occurring sugars (not those sugars you find in chocolate bars) and is high in water and fibre. We love fruit and use it in our breakfast smoothies. Put simply, eating fruit won't make you fat.
2. Olive oil will clog your arteries
Wrong! Olive oil consists of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are the good kinds of fat. Olive oil (which is part of the Mediterranean diet) is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, and when consumed properly has no relationship to weight gain or high cholesterol.
3. Eggs are bad for your heart
Let's crack this one. Egg paranoia is based on the old assumption that eating the yolks will raise blood cholesterol. Not true. The cholesterol in eggs has almost no effect on our blood cholesterol levels. Cholesterol levels are more influenced by saturated and trans fat - not found in eggs.
4. Fat-free is healthy
Be careful. "Fat-free" or "low fat" may not be the smart option. Often these products are loaded with sugars and chemicals to replace the flavour. Also, when the fat is removed, you'll find you won't feel full after eating, so you could end up overeating.
5. Eating fat will make you fat
We can't imagine our lives without avocado, fish and nuts. Eating a diet with good fats will fuel you with energy, help your body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, keep your brain active and sharp, and will keep you fuller for longer.
6. Fresh always beats frozen
There's nothing wrong with keeping some frozen vegies in the freezer - especially when you need a quick dinner on the go. And although fresh is genuinely better, if the vegetable is flash-frozen shortly after harvesting, it typically contains the same amount of nutrients as its fresh cousins.
7. Skipping breakfast will help you lose weight
No, no, no! You need breakfast to kick start your day with energy. Skipping breakfast will make you starving by mid-morning so you're more likely to binge. If you're not hungry in the morning, try one of our smoothies. They're not only quick and easy to make, they're super delicious.
8. Gluten-free diets have fewer calories
Some people think this is the secret to weight loss. Unless you have a gluten intolerance, there's no need to cut it out. Some supermarket foods labelled as "gluten free" are packed with refined sugars and chemicals, which will leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied.
9. Always choose the salad when eating out
Be careful. You may think you're ordering the healthy option, but your salad may be worse than a bowl of hot chips. Fried croutons, processed cheese and creamy dressings may undo all your hard work at the gym.
10. Nuts are unhealthy
Again, no! Nuts contain healthy fats (refer to point six) and help keep you full. They make a great snack and are delicious in dressings and smoothies. However, make sure you're eating raw or dry nuts only, not the salted variety.
MIND: Happy holidays
POST-CHRISTMAS blues? You're not alone.
Stress and difficult relatives are both key factors in anxiety and depression in the festive season.
If you are feeling you can't cope, talk to your health practitioner or contact Beyond Blue via www.beyondblue.org.au
If you feel you simply need some support or encouragement, now is the time to reframe your thoughts or change your routine.
Remember, it's not possible to get on with everyone. Accept differences, or disagreements within family circles and make a conscious effort to let them go.
Boost mental health with positive thoughts about what is good in your life, not what you can't fix. Did you know that if you have a home to live in or food on the table, you are richer than 71 per cent of the world's population who live on less than $10 a day?
Treat yourself well. Yes, you, probably the last person on your list! Shop for and prepare nutritious and delicious food you enjoy and make your own healthy treats - banana bread, fruit and nut balls, or a muesli slice.
Get at least 30 minutes' exercise every day - preferably outdoors, although the heat means early morning or evening is best - and establish a regular bedtime routine that means seven to eight hours of good rest. Try herbal remedies like valerian for insomnia.
Plan to do at least one thing you enjoy every day, not just work or chores.
Phone a friend. Make a coffee date. Catch up on news. Download. Social support is vital to good mental health.
WEIGHT LOSS: Ditch the christmas kilos the easy way
HAM, Christmas cake, chips, nuts, pavlova, cream ... how's your stomach and your waistline?
Don't be tempted to do something drastic. Fad diets don't work.
Our body is also naturally programmed to detox and return to health, so don't torture it with expensive products or cult routines.
The most important thing you can do to assist your body to shed kilos and increase resistance to illness is to boost vegetable intake and reduce sugar and saturated fat.
After analysing scores of studies, a team from Imperial College London has recommended upping the daily dose to fruit and vegetables to 800g - that's twice the recommended five serves that only seven per cent of us meet - to give the best odds of warding off heart attack, stroke, cancer and early death.
Apples and pears, citrus fruits, salads and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower were linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease risk.
Green vegetables, such as spinach or green beans, yellow vegetables, such as peppers and carrots, and cruciferous vegetables were linked to a reduction in cancer risk.
Yes, you can add spinach, rocket or salad vegies to breakfast, or treat yourself to a fruit smoothie. Use Stevia instead of sugar if you have a sweet tooth and try an olive oil dressing on salads instead of mayonnaise.
Add a before-breakfast or after-dinner walk to boost results and try a quality yoghurt to boost good bugs in your stomach and digestive and immune health. Don't choose a low-fat brand, which is full of sugar.
Regrets, we have a few
GOOD mental health can be impacted by financial decisions.
With more than $50 billion expected to be spent in retail stores over the Christmas trading period in Australia, research by AMP suggests more Aussies are likely to feel the pinch financially on the back of overspending, impulse purchases, as well as a lack of budgeting.
The AMP study, which looked at responses from about 1000 people, revealed that 69 per cent suffer from "post-purchase blues".
Articles compiled by Helen Hawkes, who is a counsellor, stress and wellness coach. She is currently completing a Diploma of Nutrition. www.helenhawkes.org