Healthy Balanced Diet
Healthy eating is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. The food we put into our body is the energy source on which we live and survive, combined with regular exercise and a relatively low stress environment, we can hope to be healthy and happy as possible.
A Healthy balanced diet is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Balanced proportions of fruit and vegetables, starchy foods such as potatoes and pastas, proteins such as meats, beans, fish and eggs, milk and dairy products and last and in the smallest proportion foods and drinks that are high in fat/sugar or both.
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A Balanced Diet should consist of the following:
- Fruit and Vegetables (at least 30-40% of your balanced diet)
- Carbs and Starchy Foods such as Bread, rice, potatoes and pasta (about 30% of your balanced diet)
- Proteins such as Meat, fish, eggs, and beans (about 20% of your balanced diet)
- Milk and Dairy Foods (about 20% of your balanced diet)
- Fatty and Sugary foods/drinks (less than 10% of your balanced diet)
Governmental advice from the offical eatwell.gov.uk website says that we should aim to eat a healthy portion of fruit and vegetables. For more detail on how to get more fruit and veg into your diet see here. In summary, you should aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg every day to achieve your “5 a day” – remember vegetables come in many shapes, sizes and forms, they could be fresh fruit or vegetables, tinned vegetables (such as Kidney Beans or Chopped Tomatoes), Frozen veg (such as Frozen peas or sweetcorn)
Why is it important to each fruit and vegetables everyday?
Fruit and Vegetables are packed full of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Not only are vegetables low in fat, especially saturated fats, they will help to reduce your risk of developing chronic heart diseases and some cancers. – Superfoods such as Blueberries, Garlic, Chilli and Ginger are even more effective at boosting your immune system and preventing illnesses.
What counts as one of your five a day?
There is a technical explanation for this, but it’s easier to think of it as hand sized portions – eg. a whole banana, apple or orange, or half a small melon, or a handful of strawberries etc.. For fruit juices a glass or cup full is about one portion.
Tips to squeezing five portions into your daily diet:
– Have fruit juice with your breakfast
– Have fruits as a snack during the day
– Add fruit ontop of cereals, banana is delcious when added to weetabix or bran flakes.
– Try to have two types of vegetables with your main meals instead of one
There is a lot of low-carb diets our there on the market which claim to remove the ‘stodge’ in our diets to help lose weight. Official advice from governmental healthy balanced diet experts dispute this. The facts of the matter are that carbs and starchy foods are an excellent source of energy and provide our bodies with a large proportion of the essential nutrients our bodies need as part of everday life.
Starch provides an excellent source of slow-release energy which is ideal for sustaining energy levels throughout the day. The reason many low-carb diets have focused upon carbs and starchy foods as a main source for healthy weight loss is that carbs and starchy foods are great, although excess carbs that we do not burn may turn into fat. This is why it is important to aim for “60 active minutes” per day to help make sure we use carbs and starchy foods for what they are designed for – to give us energy!
The fact of the matter is that the removal of carbs completely is bad for our health in the long term as our bodies could be missing out on essential nutrients to keep healthy and happy. Especially when these diets include high fat contents from cheeses and butter which can increase the chances of chronic diseases.
So in a nutshell, carbs should make up about one-third of your diet and try to be as active as possible to prevent excess carb stores turning into fat stores.
Sources of Carbs and Starchy Foods:
- Breads – It’s even healthier if you can get wholemeal, wholegrain or brown bread (which contains more fibre)
- Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes (try not too deep fry them, oven roasted chips taste just as good as a deep fried chip, at a fraction of the fat-content!)
- Wholegrain cereals
- Beans, lentils, peas, couscous, maize and cornmeal.
- Rice, ideally brown or wholegrain rice
A variety of starchy foods is always better than eating just one type, as this will provide a range of nutrients and fibres
Milk, cheese, yoghurts are all types of diary products and an importance source of proteins, vitamins and calcuim, that can help to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. The flip side to many dairy products is the levels of fat content, which vary greatly between the different types of diary products.
Cheese has the highest fat content of dairy products, however it is important to stress that you do not have to remove cheese completely from your healthy balanced diet. Instead try eating half-fat cheese, or smaller portions of your favourite cheeses. Some cheeses are naturally healthier than others such as feta cheese, Quark and reduced fat cottage cheese.
Milk is generally low in fat, unless you have full-fat milk. It is highly recommended that you go for semi-skimmed milk at least, with skimmed milk being even more healthier.
Butter and cream are high in fats, so it is best to keep your intake of these to a minimum, good alternatives are low-fat spreads some of which can actually help to lower cholestorl and provide omega 3, 6 and 9 oils. Also try to ensure that you choose unsalted butter as this may help to reduce your daily intake of salt (less than 6g of salt a day for adults)
- Dairy foods are very important for pregnant mothers as the calcium in dairy foods is very important in helping to develop the unborn babys bones.
- Milk and Dairy foods are a great source of energy, calcium, protein and vitamins for children – particularly to help them develop healthy bones and teeth.
- Pasteurisation – this is the process of heating diary products to kill harmful bacteria. It is not recommended to drink unpasteurised milk, due to the potentially damaging health effects of the harmful bacteria.
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Meat is an excellent source of protein, vitamins such as iron and zinc and B12 to contribute to your healthy balanced diet. Unforunately, some forms of meat are high in saturated fats. You can help to reduce the amount of fat in meats by grilling instead of frying and try to choose leaner meats with less visible white fats (e.g choose bacon with less white fat)
Turkey, Chicken (free range) and pork are generally lower in fat than Sausages, beef burgers, beef and lamb mince. To make it even healthier try eating skinless chicken and turkey and trimming any fat from the pork.
Salami, pâté, sausages and burgers are usually high in fat and salt, so check the label and try to eat these sparingly if at all. Also try to avoid meats in pastry such as sausage rolls, mince pies and pasties etc..
If you choose to fry your foods, try using less oil and making sure that the oil is a healthier option such as rapeseed oil or olive oil, instead of vegetable oil or sunflower oil
It is important to make sure that meats are properly cooked to ensure that any harmful bacteria have been killed. You need to ensure that the following meats are cooked all the way through until piping hot and the juices are clear (e.g not red and bloody)
Chicken, turkey, duck, goose, burgers, sausages, kebabs and rolled joints. – Must be cooked until piping hot in the middle (above 65 degrees centigrade)
It is safe to eat whole joins of meat that are still pink in the middle, so long as the outside of the joint is sealed. This is because most of the harmful bacteria in joints of meats are found on the surface of the meat.
Storing meat – Meat should be stored properly to prevent the risk of food poisoning. Sealed containers are especially useful for this.
Freezing meat – You can freeze raw meat that is before it’s use by date. Make sure any thawed out meat is cooked until it is piping hot all the way through, as the defrosting process can allow bacteria to spread in the food. It is important never to reheat frozen foods more than once, as this can allow the growth of harmful bacteria.
Fats and Fatty Foods
Fats and Sugars
There are many types of fats in foods, some a good fats and some are bad fats. The main types of fats are saturated (bad) and unsaturated (good in moderation). Eating too much saturated fats can increase your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of developing heart disease. To reduce your saturated fat intake, avoid foods such as fatty cuts of meat, pastries, butter, cream, cheese, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, coconut oil and cream and crisps – as generally these foods contain higher levels of saturated fats.
The average male adult should have no more than 30g of saturated fat per day, it’s 20g for a female adult and for children is varies depending on age.
What is a fatty food?
Anything with more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g of product. Anything below 1.5g of saturated fat per 100g is considered low.
Tips to reduce fat intake:
- Try semi-skimmed or skimmed milk instead of full fat milk
- Try low fat yoghurts and half-fat cheeses – they taste just as good!
- Try grating cheese instead of slicing, this can help you to eat less.
- Trim any visible white fats from cuts of meat, and use leaner mince meat
- Remove the skin from Chicken and Turkey
- Eat less Pastry and Pies
- Cook with unsaturated oils such as sunflower oil, rapseed or olive oil
- Choose healthier snacks, such as low-fat crisps, biscuits or fruit instead of chocolate and fatty treats
This is why it is important to aim for “60 active minutes” per day to help make sure we use carbs and starchy foods for what they are designed for – to give us energy! Getting adequate exercise is especially important if you’re trying to beat menopause weight gain.