Eating healthily doesn’t have to be complicated or boring! In fact, it’s about making sure you have plenty of variety.
It’s about not eating too much of some things – like calories, saturated fat, sugar and salt – while getting enough of others – like fibre and anti-oxidant vitamins and minerals.
Water makes up over 60% of our body weight, and it’s important to keep hydrated to maintain this. You should aim to drink six to eight glasses of liquid like water, juice, milk or fruit squash a day. It’s best to avoid too many fizzy drinks as they contain a lot of sugar and calories, which can result in tooth decay and weight gain when consumed excessively.
The Five Main Food Groups
There are five main food groups (see below) that we all need to eat to maintain a balanced diet, but it can sometimes be confusing how much of each we are supposed to have.
• Fruit and vegetables
• Starchy foods
• Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, lentils and nuts
• Milk and dairy foods
• Fat, sugar and salt
The eatwell plate can help you.
Here are some facts and tips to help you turn healthy eating advice into enjoyable meals and snacks.
Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are full of minerals, fibre, and antioxidant vitamins that help our bodies to work efficiently and support our immune systems to keep us healthy. They can be fresh, frozen, dried, canned or juiced and should make up about a third of our diet. Many of us don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables, and it can be hard to know how much a ‘portion’ actually is. Here are a few simple suggestions, which count as one portion each:
One Portion Is…
A glass of juice or a heaped tablespoon of dried fruit or a banana with your cereal
An apple or a handful of grapes or a pear
A side salad or a tomato and lettuce in a sandwich or three heaped tablespoons of baked beans
Three heaped tablespoons of vegetables like peas or carrots or sweetcorn
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Beans, Lentils and Nuts
Eat a portion of any of these foods at two of your daily meals. They all contain protein, which helps to build and repair your body. You don’t need to eat meat or fish every day – try cheese, well-cooked eggs, beans, lentils or tofu instead. Try to eat fish twice a week – one portion of white fish such as haddock or cod, and one portion of oily fish such as salmon or sardines. Oily fish are rich in vitamin D and a type of fat that helps to prevent heart disease. Avoid frying meat or fish.
Breads, Other Cereals and Potatoes
Have a serving of starchy food (bread, chapatis, breakfast cereal, potatoes, yams, rice or pasta) with every meal. These foods give you energy. Wholegrain foods such as brown rice or wholegrain bread or pasta contain B vitamins, minerals and fibre that keep you well and help prevent constipation.
Milk and Dairy foods
These foods contain calcium, which helps to keep bones strong. Try to have three servings a day and choose lower-fat versions, such as semi-skimmed milk, half-fat cheese and low-fat paneer where you can. A serving can be a cup of milk, pot of yoghurt, matchbox-size piece of cheese or small pot of cottage cheese. If you’re vegan or have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, try lactose-free milk or milk and dairy alternatives fortified with calcium such as soya, nut, rice and oat drinks.
Foods Containing Fat and Sugar
Watch the total amount of fat in your diet, including oil and ghee. Limit the times you eat chips or fried food. Don’t fill up on foods containing saturated fat or sugar such as cakes, biscuits, sausages and meat pies; leave room for more nutritious foods. Saturated fats raise the level of cholesterol in the blood and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
You should aim to eat five portions a day. Remember each portion must be different, and try to choose foods of different colours to help you get the range of vitamins you need.