As the New Year begins, thoughts turn to new beginnings and lifestyle changes, healthier eating is a great choice to make as a New Year’s resolution – or anytime in fact! We are all guilty of not looking after our health when we are busy, tired, or unwell but a making concerted effort to eat more healthily not only has many health benefits but financial benefits too, if cutting back on unhealthy takeaways and grab and go food. In this article, we look at what healthy eating means and give tips for success in moving to a heathier diet.
The Eatwell Guide
We all know that we should perhaps be eating in a more healthy and balanced way but how do we know exactly what we should be eating and how much? It can feel a little confusing! That’s where the Government’s Eatwell Guide helps. The Eatwell Guide is a great visual representation of what we should be eating on a weekly basis as part of a healthy balanced diet and what we should be eating less often and in moderation. It also gives a guide to interpreting food packaging information and how much liquid we should be imbibing each day to keep our bodies healthy.
What Does a Healthy Balanced Diet Look Like?
A healthy balanced diet will have the correct number of daily calories for how active you are. To put things in perspective, the average man needs around 2,500 calories a day and the average woman needs 2,000 calories. Obviously as these are averages, the more active you are, you will need more and the more sedentary, the less you need.
A balanced diet will include a wide range of foods to ensure that your body gets all the nutrients it needs. The proportions of the various food groups we should be eating are found in the Eatwell Guide.
Fruit and Vegetables – are you getting your 5 a day?
Full of wonderful vitamins and minerals and fibre to keep your digestive system feeling fuller longer, staving off those hunger pangs that might make you crave less healthy options. Ideally, fruit and vegetables should make up a third of your daily food intake. We’ve all heard of the ‘5 a day’ term by now, meaning we should all eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day but what counts as a portion? Does it mean you can eat 5 apples a day and you’ve smashed the target? This handy guide from the NHS explains 5 a day perfectly. Eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables is the key to success and with almost all fruit and vegetables counting towards your 5 a day, there will many ways for everyone to achieve the target. For simplicity, a portion counts as:
- 80g of fresh, canned, or frozen fruit and vegetables
- 30g of dried fruit
- 150ml of fruit juice, vegetable juice or smoothie (once a day only)
- 80g of beans and pulses (once a day)
Feel Fuller for Longer
Fibre is what makes us feel fuller for longer, fending off those hunger pangs and cravings for less healthy food. Higher fibre, starchy carbohydrates, such as potatoes, pasta, rice, and cereals should make up no more than a third of your daily intake.
Tips for success:
- Choose wholegrain varieties which have a higher fibre content
- Choose healthier options when cooking these types of foods – swap partially hydrogenised vegetable oil for olive or sunflower oil
- Limit creamy pasta sauces which will add fats and calories
Fish is a great source of protein, containing many vitamins and minerals. Oily fish is especially good as it is high in omega-3 fats which may help to prevent heart disease. Oily fish are fish such as salmon, trout, and pilchards.
Tip for success: Swap the fish and chip takeaway for homemade breadcrumbed salmon goujons and oven baked potato wedges.
Fats, Sugar and Salt
It’s important to remember that we all need fat in our diet but it’s the type of fats that we eat that we need to keep an eye on. Saturated fats are the fats that increase the amount of cholesterol in our bodies, increasing the risk of heart disease. Non-saturated fats are the healthier fats and are predominantly found from plant-based foods. Think vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds.
Tips for Success:
- Choose lean meats, 5% fat mince, for example. Cut off as much visible fat as you can.
- Ditch lard, ghee, and butter for healthier choices, such as olive oil or vegetable oil.
- Limit fats to small portions
Cutting back on free sugars, which are those added to foods, such as alcohol, fizzy drinks, biscuits, and cakes, will help towards a balanced healthy diet. Salt can raise blood pressure and 6g or less a day is the aim for a healthy diet.