By Maree Ferguson

A few weeks ago I attended the “What Should I Eat?” event in Brisbane with about 400 other Brisbanites, notably a predominately young female audience.  One word to describe the evening – fascinating!!

The format of the evening was a panel discussion with book authors including Sarah Wilson, Lola Berry, David Gillespie, Dr Kerryn Phelps and our very own Dr Sue Shepherd and Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos.  TV journalist Chris Bath moderated the lively debate which was filled with disagreements between panel members; and she did a great job ensuring each panellist enjoyed equal air-time.

First question put to the “experts” – what is your perfect plate?  Responses were diverse:

Mindfulness is the essential ingredient – Dr Kerryn Phelps

Variety is the spice of life – Dr Sue Shepherd

Cut out sugar/processed food – Sarah Wilson

Real food, real ingredients, happiness – Lola Berry

Eat whatever you want except sugar and seed oils – David Gillespie

Enjoy a practical sustainable healthy eating pattern – Catherine Itsiopoulos

Next question, who should we get our advice from? (I wonder!)

Dietitians are the nutrition experts! We provide individual and tailored advice based on scientific evidence – Dr Sue Shepherd

Few Australians are going to a dietitian; they are generally getting their nutrition information from the media.  Have to be cautious relying on science, it’s always changing…Dietitians present themselves as impartial, but are not always – Sarah Wilson

Science is not simple; it evolves with time and we learn over time where the truth lies; hence you need to be trained to decipher the science – Dr Kerryn Phelps


Let’s not even get started with Paleo please!

Paleo diet can work for some individuals, low carbohydrate data mainly in men; doesn’t always work with women is what I have found. If going on an extreme diet, you should work with a qualified professional – Sarah Wilson

Carbohydrates are not all the same – Catherine Itsiopolous

Elements of the diet are “cool” such as going back to basics and eating real food, but it’s not for everybody – Lola Berry

Average mortality back then was 30 years and children had malnutrition – Dr Kerryn Phelps


Do we have to talk about sugar?!

Sugar is made up of glucose and fructose and is “really bad”! Fructose is metabolised in the liver, whilst every other sugar is used by the body – David Gillepsie

When it comes to discussing diet and nutrition with my patients, I refer them to a dietitian (thank you Kerryn!) – Dr Kerryn Phelps

Obesity cannot be linked solely to fructose, you can’t blame one molecule for the obesity epidemic. In addition, sugar consumption is on the decline – Dr Sue Shepherd

WHO have released new guidelines for sugar based on science – Sarah Wilson

Science is not simple, I’m starting to see many patients with altered gut bacteria often due to long-term unidentified gut parasites, and this may be related to chronic disease including obesity  – Dr Kerryn Phelps


What about trans fats, which are now banned in the US? 

Avoid trans fats and high omega 6 oils such as canola, cotton seed and grapeseed oils – David Gillespie

It’s more about consuming more omega 3 fats and the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 – Dr Catherine Itsiopolous

Just when you thought we could no longer eat anything, Dr Kerryn Phelps lets us know that alcohol is a carcinogen and really should be avoided by anyone with cancer or high risk of developing cancer.

And the Heart Foundation tick and the new health star rating did not escape a mention, with David Gillespie stating that we should avoid anything with the tick as it doesn’t take into account sugar and is not impartial.


One final health message for the evening from each of the panel members:

I don’t mind what you eat; eat whatever you want, but avoid sugar and seed oil – David Gillespie

Healthy eating pattern – Dr Catherine Itsiopolous

Happiness; do things you love – Lola Berry

Doesn’t come down to one message; be inquisitive; be careful who you listen to for advice – Dr Kerryn Phelps

Just eat real food (#JERF); understanding your appetite is your way to food freedom; do what makes you happy and feel good – Sarah Wilson

Respect your body and what works for you as an individual – Dr Sue Shepherd

So could the panel agree on anything?    Thankfully they did agree on the following:

Eat five vegetables and two fruit per day

Teach cooking at school

Cook your own food

Eat fresh real food

photo 5


And in case you are wondering … Who had the longest line for book signing?

Sarah Wilson and Lola Berry had hundreds of raving adoring fans.  I reflected on why this might be?  Is it because they seem more “real” and approachable?  Or is it because they speak with passion, conviction and confidence in short sound bites (even without the evidence to back up their statements)? If we could learn from them and bottle it… we, as dietitians, could be onto a winner!

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