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Non-essential (NEEDNT) food list a new tool against obesity

Non-essential (NEEDNT) food list -- a new tool against obesity

Researchers at the University of Otago, Christchurch have developed a new list of 49 ‘NEEDNT’ foods as part of a treatment research programme for obesity.

The list, published in the latest New Zealand Medical Journal, has been developed primarily to help obese people more clearly identify those foods that are best avoided in a healthy diet and only eaten from time to time as a treat, or in some cases avoided altogether.

The researchers describe NEEDNT foods (see list below) as those which are energy (calorie) dense or high in fat and/or added sugars, foods that are prepared using a high fat cooking method, such as frying or roasting, or those foods which have a large amount of energy relative to their essential nutrient (vitamin and/or mineral) content.

“This list of 49 common foods is designed as a therapeutic intervention to be used by health professionals with obese or overweight people wanting to lose weight. It’s aimed at differentiating nutritious foods from those that are just high in calories,” says lead researcher and dietitian Dr Jane Elmslie.

“Many people struggle to know what to eat if they have a weight problem. The advice out there is often complicated and contradictory. It can be quite difficult to understand the relevance of health-related product endorsements and the information on food labels.”

Dr Elmslie stresses this is not just another list of high calorie foods. “The foods on this list are high in calories, and they are also low in essential nutrients (vitamins and minerals), or are able to be replaced by lower calorie more nutritious alternatives.”

The list of 49 foods was compiled using the National Heart Foundation and Diabetes New Zealand’s ‘Foods to Avoid’, ‘Stop Eating’ and ‘Optional Foods’ lists, as well as the Canterbury District Health Board’s ‘Supermarket Shopping Guide’.

The list names the generic food, and suggests a healthier replacement or none at all. For instance some of the foods where there is no easy low energy replacement according to the NEEDNT list are: muesli bars, ice cream, cakes, chocolate, doughnuts, jam, honey, pies and pastries.

“Muesli bars are a classic example of how overweight people can be misled into thinking they’re eating healthy food. In fact most muesli bars are high in calories, and fat and sugar, with minimal nutritional value. Essentially they are just another form of biscuit,” says Dr Elmslie.

Dr Ria Schroder points out that, “simply avoiding NEEDNT foods is unlikely to be an effective weight reduction strategy on its own. However knowing which foods to make individual rules for, can help people think more carefully about whether what they are eating is nutritious and necessary, or just random recreational grazing.”

The authors say that with 63% of New Zealanders now either obese or overweight there is an urgent need for new strategies or guidelines to deal with this growing health issue, and the NEEDNT list is one possible approach.

The authors intend carrying out further research to examine the impact of the NEEDNT list on overweight or obese adults who want to lose weight.

The complete NEEDNT list is in the table below.

Alcoholic drinks Water/diet soft drinks
Butter, lard, dripping or similar fat (used as a spread or in baking/cooking etc.)Lite margarine or similar spread or omit
Coconut cream Lite coconut milk/coconut flavoured lite evaporated milk
Condensed milk*
Cordial Water/Sugar free cordial
Corn chips*
Cream (including crème fraiche)Natural yoghurt (or flavoured yoghurt depending on use)
Crisps (including vegetable crisps)*
Drinking Chocolate, Milo etc.Cocoa plus artificial sweetener
Energy drinks Water
Flavoured milk/milkshakes Trim, Calcitrim or Lite Blue Milk
Fruit tinned in syrup (even lite syrup!) Fruit tinned in juice/artificially sweetened
Fried food Boiled, grilled or baked food
Frozen yoghurt Ordinary yoghurt
Fruit juice (except tomato juice and unsweetened blackcurrant juice)Fresh fruit (apple, orange, pear etc. + a drink!)
Glucose Artificial sweetener
High fat crackers ( 10g fat per 100g) Lower fat crackers ( 10g fat per 110g)
Hot chips*
Ice cream*
Marmalade *
MayonnaiseLite dressings/lite mayonnaise
Muesli bars*
Nuts roasted in fat or oil Dry roasted or raw nuts ( 1 handful per day)
Popcorn with butter or oil Air popped popcorn
Quiches Crust-less quiches
Reduced cream Natural yoghurt
Regular luncheon sausage Low fat luncheon sausage
Regular powdered drinks (e.g. Raro)Water/Diet/Sugar free powdered drinks
Regular salami Low fat salami
Regular sausages Low fat sausages
Regular soft drinks Water/Diet soft drinks
Rollups Fresh fruit
Sour cream Natural yoghurt
Sugar (added to anything including drinks, baking, cooking etc.)Artificial sweetener
Syrups such as golden syrup, treacle, maple syrup Artificial sweetener
Toasted muesli and any other breakfast cereal with 15g sugar per 100g cerealBreakfast cereal with <15g sugar per 100g cereal, > 6g fibre per 100g cereal and <5g fat per 100g cereal (or <10 g fat per 100g cereal if cereal contains nuts and seeds)
Whole MilkTrim, Calcitrim or Lite Blue Milk
Yoghurt type products with 10g sugar per 100g yoghurtYoghurt (not more than one a day)

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