New research has found that 70% of young Aussie women have experienced feelings of guilt from eating cheese.
The most common reason for that guilt is that women think it's fattening, with 31% saying they have limited their consumption or avoided cheese for that reason.
Guilt experienced by Aussie women isn't limited to cheese consumption, with results also showing that nine out of 10 women aged between 18-34 experience guilt from at least one different aspect of life.
The main feelings of guilt stem from skipping the gym, personal food choices, parenting, financial decisions and relationships with friends and family.
The research was commissioned by Dairy Australia, the leading national service body for dairy farmers and the industry. Dairy Australia wants to ease some of the guilt that women are feeling around their consumption of dairy products, telling Australian women they can enjoy cheese without feeling guilty.
Dairy Australia Dietitian, Glenys Zucco said that there are many reasons to include cheese in the diet.
'Currently, nine out of 10 Australian women don't consume their recommended serves of dairy each day as advised by the Australian Dietary Guidelines, so women don't have to feel guilty about increasing their daily consumption of cheese," she said.
'Despite popular belief, eating cheese as part of a balanced diet is not linked to weight gain. In fact, the latest scientific evidence shows including milk, cheese and yoghurt as part of a weight loss plan can help you lose more weight.
'Accumulated research shows that there is a wealth of health benefits linked with the consumption of cheese which is a valuable source of naturally occurring essential nutrients. Adding an extra serve of dairy to your day can be as easy as two slices of cheddar on your sandwich or half a cup of ricotta in your pasta sauce."
Dietitian and balanced eating advocate Lyndi Cohen was quick to support Dairy Australia's position, saying it's common but unhelpful for women to feel guilty about what they're eating.
'It didn't surprise me that so many women feel guilty about eating cheese! It's important for Aussie women to know that there's absolutely no reason to feel guilty about some of their personal food choices, especially around eating cheese," she said.
'Cheese is good for you! It naturally contains a host of nutrients you need including calcium for strong bones and protein for hunger busting and healthy muscles," said Lyndi.
To help combat the reasons women feel guilt, Dairy Australia has announced a Feel Good Cheese Pop-up. The pop-up is part of a campaign designed to celebrate women and their choices, as well as to help them feel good, not guilty about eating cheese, and showcase ways to include cheese throughout the day.
Dairy Australia is the national services body for the Australian dairy industry. Visit legendairy.com.au for more information and cheesy recipe inspiration.
Question: Why are many women feeling guilty about food?
Lyndi Cohen: Food is often labelled as either good or bad and it's making us feel guilty after eating anything less than 'perfect'. But knowing what is healthy these days has also become so confusing and overwhelming. It's hard to know what's considered healthy anymore! At the same time, social media has made it easier than ever to compare our bodies, diets and lives with others so it can make us feel guilty when we don't live up to our expectations. But being healthy isn't about looking like a model or eating perfectly. Health is about feeling good and feeling balanced - not guilty, anxious or not good enough.
Question: What are the signs associated with food-guilt?
Lyndi Cohen: If you lie in bed at night obsessing about what you ate that day or feel disappointed when you indulge in your favourite foods, then you may have food guilt. Food guilt can make you feel really bad about yourself and it often comes from the belief that food must be perfect to be healthy.
Question: How can food-guilt be detrimental to a women's health?
Lyndi Cohen: Feeling guilty after eating can lead to a really unhealthy and imbalanced relationship with food where things get labelled good or bad. In the long term, food guilt doesn't motivate you to eat healthier, it actually causes you to get stuck in a torturous restrict/binge/repeat cycle with food which can lead to weight gain. It's time to let go of the food guilt that and stop demonising foods. You should never feel guilty for eating any food which means you have to give yourself permission to eat the foods that make your body feel good.
Question: How is a balanced approach to eating, the most effective to maintain a healthy weight?
Lyndi Cohen: You really don't need to cut anything out of your diet to be healthy! The worlds healthiest diet includes plenty of variety which means everything can be on the menu. There is no reason to feel guilty or cut out certain foods. When you cut out whole foods, you end up craving them more that is when you're more likely to binge or emotional eating.
Question: What are some of the foods perceived to be bad that are actually good, for us?
Lyndi Cohen: Cheese is often seen as being fattening but the truth is having cheese can actually help you manage your weight. It's also a great way to get more calcium, protein, and nutrients into your diet. I eat cheese almost every day and it makes me feel good, not guilty.
Question: Can you share with us the benefits of adding more dairy to our diet?
Lyndi Cohen: Cheese is good for so many reasons. The calcium from cheese is great for strong and healthy bones and the protein from cheese is a great way to fuel your muscles. Full of essential nutrients, cheese also tastes great and makes you feel good. I love cheese and I recommend you try to add cheese to your salads, sandwiches or breakfast every day to get the benefits.
Question: How much dairy is recommended for adult women?
Lyndi Cohen: Most Aussie women aren't getting the recommended serves of dairy per day. But it's not hard to get your daily intake when you have a glass of milk for breakfast or with your cereal, cheese on your salad or sandwich, and a pot of yoghurt as a snack.
Question: Why is cheese particularly good for our weight?
Lyndi Cohen: Cheese helps you feel satiated and full after eating so you end up filling up on more of the good stuff and have less room for less healthy options. Cheese also tastes really good so it makes healthy options more enjoyable. And when you enjoy healthy eating, it's so much easier to stick to in the long term.
Question: Can you share a diary recipe with us?
Lyndi Cohen: Lyndi created two recipes for this campaign – you can view them here and here.
Interview by Brooke Hunter