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"What to do? It really is so confusing!"

When she uttered these immortal words, Alice in Wonderland might well have been speaking about nutrition and diets with foods of every kind swirling around her, promising worlds of delight without end.

Of all the topics in How Not To Accidentally Die, none consumed more of our energy and required more reading than nutrition. To say 'everyone's got an opinion' is putting it mildly. In many other areas of life, there's typically a consensus. Most people understand that if you speed without a seat belt, you're more likely (eventually) to do yourself harm. There aren't many folk advising you to swallow magnets or chew on asbestos. But with food, and with diets especially, it's very easy to stray into areas where polar opposite opinions confront each other. How do you make sense of it all?

Diets ad infinitum

We both love food. We both enjoy a good meal and as we candidly confess at the end of the book, we both eat chocolate. As we began putting together our nutrition chapters it quickly became apparent that there was no hope of us reviewing all the diets available. And in any case we didn't want to, because what we're trying to do is show you the risks to your health.

Sitting behind, as it were, all the diets you can point a fork at are guidelines offered by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) that will, if followed, should help keep you a healthy weight and reduce your likelihood of certain chronic diseases.

We've condensed and simplified their advice as follows:

We propose you keep all four factors in mind when choosing what to eat. Why? Well, just because a food loudly proclaims, '0% fat!' or 'No added sugar!' or 'Low sodium!' doesn't mean it's good for you. Fruit juice, for example, has 'No added sugar' but still has frightening levels of sugar.

Whatever diet you are on, keep the above 4 guidelines in mind. They're easy to remember.

You'll see in the book a heap of suggestions for food substitutions - eg herbs or dried lemon instead of salt, that kind of thing - plus we've laid out a number of typical Aussie meals, from breakfast to dinner, with the fat, salt, sugar and fibre count for each shown, then given you options of how to make those meals far better for you.

Good food is a source of much pleasure. So is good health.

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