How balanced is your diet?

 

 

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential for everyone, as it’s an important part of helping to keep you healthy and feeling great. 

 

The NHS recommend the ‘Eatwell Guide’ which shows the 5 main food groups you should have to get a wide range of nutrients.  For you to have a balanced diet you should try to:

  • Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
  • Base your meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
  • Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
  • Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
  • Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
  • Drink plenty of fluids (at least 6 to 8 glasses a day)
  • If you're having foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar, have these less often and in small amounts

Not only are fruit and vegetables a good source of vitamins and minerals, they are also an excellent source of dietary fibre, helping you maintain a healthy gut.  Fruit and vegetables are usually low in fat and calories (provided you don't fry them or roast them in lots of oil) which is why eating them can help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your heart healthy.  Fruit and vegetables taste delicious and there's so much variety to choose from, so what counts as a portion?

 

  • 80g of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables counts as 1 portion of your 5 a day. When choosing tinned fruit and vegetables find ones in natural juice or water, with no added sugar or salt.
  • 30g of dried fruit (equivalent to 80g of fresh fruit) counts as 1 portion of your 5 a day. Dried fruit should be eaten at mealtimes, not as a between-meal snack, to reduce the risk of tooth decay.

The NHS recommend that starchy foods should make up just over a third of everything you eat. Choosing wholegrain or wholemeal varieties of starchy foods, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and brown, wholemeal or higher fibre white bread, is better as it means they contain more fibre, and usually more vitamins and minerals, than white varieties.  You should also try to eat potatoes with the skins on as these are also a great source of fibre and vitamins.

 

Milk and dairy foods, such as cheese and yoghurt, are good sources of protein. They also contain calcium, which helps keep your bones healthy.  Go for lower fat and lower sugar products where possible, like choosing semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed milk, as well as lower fat hard cheeses or cottage cheese, and lower fat, lower sugar yoghurt.  Dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks, are also included in this food group and when buying these alternatives you should choose unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions.

 

Beans, pulses, fish, eggs and meat are all good sources of protein, which is essential for the body to grow and repair itself.  Choose lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry whenever possible to cut down on fat. Always cook meat thoroughly.  Try to eat less red and processed meat like bacon, ham and sausages.  Oily fish is particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids, you should aim to eat at least 2 portions of fish a week, including 1 portion of oily fish.  You can choose from fresh, frozen or canned, but remember that canned and smoked fish can often be high in salt.  Pulses, including beans, peas and lentils, are naturally very low in fat and high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. 

 

Some fat in the diet is essential but too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.  It's important to get most of your fat from unsaturated oils and spreads.  Swapping to unsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol, remember that all types of fat are high in energy and should be eaten in small amounts.

 

For more information visit www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/

 




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