Dietary interventions in management of adults with overweight and obesity

Author: 
Alice Gibson and Professor Ian Caterson

How to design dietary interventions using the Eat for Health program

Written by Alice Gibson and Professor Ian Caterson, COMPaRE investigator and Foundation Director of the Boden Institute of Obesity Nutrition Exercise and Eating Disorders and Boden Professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Sydney.

For a printer-friendly PDF version of this Topic Summary, click here.

Any weight management plan should be structured to include both an active weight loss phase and a weight maintenance phase. Although a negative energy balance is essential for weight loss, how such an energy deficit is achieved is dependent on the individual. There a numerous dietary approaches for weight loss, including low fat, low carbohydrate, high protein and low glycaemic index diets. However, many of these approaches may be too complex or too time consuming to implement in a very time limited consultation. A more practical approach is to use the latest government dietary guidelines, the Eat for Health Program (www.eatforhealth.gov.au). The Eat for Health Program includes a range of resources for providing dietary advice based on the best scientific evidence. They focus on the quality (types of foods) and quantity (amounts of foods) of food people should eat to get the nutrients essential for good health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. After all, the types of foods that patients should be eating to lose weight are the same as those that are recommended for the general healthy population.

The benefit of using the Eat for Health program to provide dietary advice for weight management is that it is flexible and can be used for patients of different cultural, economic and social backgrounds. Further, they will be of relevance and benefit to the whole family, not just the individual trying to manage their weight.

The latest National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) clinical practice guidelines for the management of overweight and obesity recommends that, for adults with overweight or obesity, clinicians design dietary interventions that produce a 2500 kilojoule per day energy deficit and tailor programs to the dietary preferences of the individual. This topic summary will show you how to achieve this using the Eat for Health program. 

Using the Eat for Health program to provide weight management advice

The Eat for Health website provides a calculator for estimating patient’s daily energy requirements: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/node/add/calculator-energy. Minus 2500kJ from this number to work out a daily energy intake target. Note: To convert from kJ’s to Calories, divide by 4.18.

The Healthy Eating for Adults brochure: is an excellent resource for providing dietary advice for weight management. It contains the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG) and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) and is available at https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/the_guidelines/n55g_adult_brochure.pdf

Australian Dietary Guidelines

The ADG provides qualitative statements that are applicable to all healthy adults. Guidelines 2 and 3 can be used to educate patients on the types of foods to eat. 

This can be in the form of simple changes they can make to the foods they are already eating to make it a healthier choice. For example:

      • Exchange refined cereal foods (white bread, white rice, Rice Bubbles) to wholegrain or higher fibre varieties (wholegrain bread, brown rice, oats).
      • Trimming fat off meat and removing skin from chicken.
      • Choosing reduced fat or no fat dairy foods.
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating

The AGHE provides quantitative recommendations on the number of serves from the five core food groups to eat based on a person's age and sex. ‘Serves’ are energy equivalents within a food group. As the recommended number of serves are based on those with the lowest energy requirements within each age and gender group (i.e. smaller and less active), following the guidelines should inevitably result in an energy deficit for larger persons (see example below).

The following table provides an approximation of the energy content of the AGHE recommendations for each age and sex group.

Table 1. Average energy content of AGHE recommendations for each age and sex category.

Food group

Energy/serve (kJ)

AGHE recommended number of serves

low

high

Male

(19-50)

Male

(51-70)

Male

70+

Female (19-50)

Female (51-70)

Female

 70+

Vegetables *

100

350

6

5.5

5

5

5

5

Fruit

350

350

2

2

2

2

2

2

Grains (cereals)

500

500

6

6

4.5

6

4

3

Meat & alternatives

500

600

3

2.5

2.5

2.5

2

2

Dairy

500

600

2.5

2.5

3.5

2.5

4

4

Healthy fats (males) (28-40g/day)

1036

1480

1

1

-

-

-

-

Healthy fats (females) (14-20g/day)

518

740

-

-

1

1

1

1

Total range (kJ/day)

8086-9330

7786-8980

6968-8040

7218-8190

6718-7790

6218-7290

*High  refers to starchy vegetables. Calculation based on 1 serve of high and the rest of low. E.g. For male 19-50, 1x 350kJ and 5 x 100kJ.

All Eat for Health resources are free to order and are ideal for use in consultations as well as display in patient waiting rooms. The website also contains lots of useful information to direct patient to, such as meal planning, eating out, cooking and shopping.

Example

55 year old female who weighs 100kg, is 1.65m tall (BMI 36.7kg/m2) and sedentary- has an estimated daily energy requirements of 9713kJ. If this lady was advised to follow the recommended number of serves, this would provide a daily energy deficit of 1923-2995 per day, or an average of ~2500kJ. This does not include any discretionary choices (non-core foods that are high in sugar, fat, salt or alcohol). A discretionary food could be accommodated into this patient’s dietary regime by choosing lower energy alternatives within food groups. For example, the energy content of the dairy food group is based on reduced fat dairy. By switching to no fat dairy (i.e. skim milk, diet yoghurt), the patient could save an extra 120kJ per serve. Similarly, they could consume all vegetable options as non-starchy (100kJ) instead of starchy (350kJ); if they wished to have starchy vegetable this could be substituted for a grain (cereals) serve.

Based on a patient's food preferences a basic meal plan structure can be formed. For example:

A note on macronutrients

Whist the debate about the optimal macronutrient composition of a weight loss diet continues; what is well established is the importance of consuming adequate protein. Protein affects the composition of body weight loss during energy restriction as it has a fat free mass (FFM) sparing effect. As FFM is the primary determinant of resting metabolic rate this helps to sustain basal energy expenditure post weight loss (which in turn helps with weight maintenance). Hence, the popularity of high protein weight loss diets. However, it is important to note that a high protein weight loss diet only needs to be relatively high in protein. This is because the amount of protein in the diet can be expressed in absolute (grams/day) or relative (percentage of energy) terms. The literature suggests that the level of protein for weight loss should be between 0.8-1.2g/kg1-4.  Normal protein intake in energy balance is usually between 10% and 20% of energy or around 1.2g/kg. Therefore, sustaining a normal protein intake (in absolute terms) results in a high protein weight loss diet (in relative terms).

By following the dietary guidelines and reducing discretionary foods which are high in refined carbohydrates, alcohol or fat- by default increases the relative proportion of protein in the diet. The following table provides an approximation of the protein content of the AGHE recommendations for each age and sex group. Multiply a patients weight by 0.8 and check that the number falls within the range indicated to ensure they are getting at least the minimum required. 

Table 2. Average protein content of AGHE recommendations for each age and sex category.

Food group

Protein/serve (g)

Male (19-50)

Male (51-70)

Male 70+

Female (19-50)

Female (51-70)

Female 70+

Vegetables

1

6

5.5

5

5

5

5

Fruit

1

2

2

2

2

2

2

Grains/cereals

3

6

6

4.5

6

4

3

Meat/alternatives*

15

20

3

2.5

2.5

2.5

2

2

Dairy

9

2.5

2.5

3.5

2.5

4

4

Average daily total protein (g)

93.5-109

86- 98

90-102

85-98

85-95

82-92


*Lower value represent average alternative (vegetarian) serves (1 cup legumes = 13g, 170g tofu = 28g, 2 eggs = 13g, 30g mixed nuts and seeds = 6g)

References
  1. Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S., Lemmens, S.G. & Westerterp, K.R. Dietary protein - its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. Br J Nutr 108 Suppl 2, S105-112 (2012).
  2. Soenen, S., Martens, E.A.P., Hochstenbach-Waelen, A., Lemmens, S.G.T. & Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S. Normal Protein Intake Is Required for Body Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance, and Elevated Protein Intake for Additional Preservation of Resting Energy Expenditure and Fat Free Mass. The Journal of Nutrition 143, 591-596 (2013).
  3. Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S., et al. Dietary protein, metabolism, and body-weight regulation: dose-response effects. Int J Obes 30, S16-S23 (2006).
  4. Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S., Nieuwenhuizen, A., Tome, D., Soenen, S. & Westerterp, K.R. Dietary protein, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr 29, 21-41 (2009).