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Is your Fuel Light On?

Empty fuel gauge with fuel light on
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Written by Gina Horn, APD

Food is Fuel

Have you ever thought about how much work your body is doing at any moment? Your brain is working hard to digest your food, pump your blood, tell you to breathe and let you see things and speak. Add onto that the thinking, moving, and day-to-day activities you undertake; your body is pumping out some work by the minute.

Just like a car needs petrol to get from A to B, your body needs food as its fuel, and the type of fuel we feed it determines how well our physical, mental and emotional functions work.

Different nutrients from various foods play different roles in the body, which is why dietitians recommend including a wide variety of foods. As we know, too much or too little of certain nutrients can have substantial health effects. For example, too much salt can increase our blood pressure, increasing our risk of heart disease and stroke, and too little calcium can cause brittle bones or osteoporosis, increasing our risk of bone fractures.

The easiest way we can ensure we have the right amount of nutrients and the right amount of fuel is to incorporate regular meals from a wide variety of whole foods or our main food groups: fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, dairy and vegetarian proteins; wholegrain carbohydrates; and healthy fats.

balanced bowl meal with vegetables and fish

Premium Fuel

The four food groups listed above are our good fuel - they fill us up with essential protein, fibre, healthy fats and all our vitamins and minerals required to optimise our health. Fueling up with these type of foods keep our vehicle (i.e.our body) in prime condition, and less likely to break down later on! An easy way to incorporate the four food groups is to fill half your plate with colourful vegetables, 1/4 with fish, eggs or beans (protein), 1/4 with a multigrain wrap or corn on the cob (carbohydrates), and finish with 1/4 avocado or a handful of nuts (healthy fats)—snack on fruit, unsalted nuts, roasted chickpeas, veggie sticks and hummus or yoghurt.

take out container containing deep fried fish and chips

Regular Fuel

Subpar or less desirable fuel includes foods or drinks that cause our vehicle to become laggy or not perform at its best. These foods include alcohol, soft drink, chocolate, lollies, deep-fried chips, burgers, pies, cakes and cookies. These are less desirable foods because they fail to provide our vehicles with very good fuel, and they have minimal amounts of healthy nutrients in them to help our vehicle's everyday functions. They might taste good and seem cheaper at the time, but they will cost us more in the long run, as consuming these foods greatly increases our risk of type 2 diabetes, mental health conditions and some cancers.

Woman holding bowl of salad and lifting forkful of food to open mouth

Fuel up regularly

We all want good fuel efficiency - and the easiest way to be food efficient is to stop yourself from running on empty. As mentioned earlier, our bodies perform many functions every single moment of the day, so we must ensure we give ourselves enough fuel to undertake these activities and processes. Eating at regular intervals throughout the day means our energy levels will remain stable (goodbye hangriness) and gives us more opportunities to consume al the nutrients we need.

To some people this may look like:

  • Breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, snack.

To others it might be:

  • Snack, Snack, Lunch, Dinner.

The point is - not everyone eats the same meals at the same time every day. Aim to provide your body with regular, healthy food, about every 3-4 hours, except when sleeping, in whatever way works best for you.

Woman sits in front of finished meal looking uncomfortable


Excessive energy intake and minimal energy output (physical activity) can lead to weight gain, which is a risk factor for many chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, and arthritis. Therefore, it is essential to find a balance between regular eating and ensuring we are consuming the right amount of nutrients but also not eating too much food. A simple trick? Eat when you are hungry, not starving, and stop when you are satisfied, not uncomfortable or stuffed.

What about regular services?

It's important to check in with your health professionals to ensure all your processes are running smoothly so they can advise you when you might be due for an oil change (hint: it's extra virgin olive oil). Speaking to an Accredited Practising Dietitian can help you meet your nutrition requirements, reduce your risk of chronic conditions, and optimise your performance. As we all know, if you look after your body, it will look after you.

Fuel Hero

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