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May 23, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Student Health Services

One of the most significant changes in health care in recent years has been the use of the internet as a way of sharing health information.  There is a lot of information available online.  Sometimes it is difficult to know if the information is accurate and from a reliable source. At the Student Health Service we are developing a list of health websites which have been recommended by the nursing and medical staff. The list includes sites about common conditions or concerns which students often experience. The initial list is available at www.victoria.ac.nz/st_services/health/ please have a look. We will continue to add sites in the future.

One website I recommend is the Healthy Food Guide (HFG) www.healthyfood.co.nz

This is because part of my role at the Student Health Service includes meeting with students who are interested in making lifestyle changes which will improve their health. Many students have reported that in making small changes to their eating patterns and increasing their physical activity that they feel better and that they are more able to cope with the demands of student life.

The HFG monthly magazine and website is produced by a dedicated team of New Zealand food writers who work with nutritionists to ensure every recipe they publish is healthy. There is also an Editorial Advisory Board of experts in human nutrition who voluntarily provide guidance on complex food related issues. The website is full of health related information and lots of nutritious, low cost and quick recipes which suit busy lifestyles.

I have noticed that many of the students I meet have not had an opportunity to learn the art of interpreting nutrition food labels. The HFG website has two helpful food label posters under the tools tab on their homepage. If you are not familiar with food labels I encourage you to have a look at these posters. Just in case you do not get to visit the website for a while here is a basic guide to reading food labels. It is called the 10/10/6 rule. Look for foods which contain 10 grams or less per 100 grams of fat and sugar and 6 grams or more per 100 grams of fibre.

Another tip which is handy to know is how much energy is contained in one gram of certain food groups and alcohol. Fat and alcohol are high in energy with fat containing 37 kilojoules per gram (kJ\g) and alcohol containing 29 kJ\g. Protein on average contains 17 kJ\g. Carbohydrates, which include pasta, rice, breads, starchy vegetables and fruits, contain 16 kJ\g.

The more you look at food labels the easier it will be to make healthy choices at the supermarket. For example hummus can be a healthy food option with some brands containing 10 grams or less of fat per 100 grams. However, not all hummus is equal and some hummus based dips may contain up to six times more fat, making it a treat rather than an everyday food. So be careful while shopping.

Just a brief mention regarding alcohol. It is currently not mandatory for alcohol containers to have a nutrition label. It is helpful to consider that a standard drink such as 330mls of regular beer, 100mls of wine or a 30ml measure of spirits all contain 10 grams of alcohol. On average one standard contains 300 kJs. Depending on how much people drink, which mixes they use and what they eat while drinking it can be a possible to consume a lot of extra energy without even realising it.

Do have a look at the HFG website and cook something new for dinner. It might become a favourite recipe and it will definitely be healthy.

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