Eating a healthy balanced diet is not only beneficial to our health but it can also help us feel good and improve our overall health and wellbeing. Here I share some useful advice on how to eat healthy
Present diets are correlated with a high burden of disease: globally 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese, 462 million are underweight and over 30% of the world’s population suffers from deficiencies of essential nutrients (WHO).
In the UK Public Health England developed the Eatwell Guide to show the government recommendations on what is considered a healthy diet and how to achieve eating a balanced diet through this evidence-based guide. It is a good starting point for anyone who wants to know how to eat a healthy balanced diet.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet with a variety of foods in the right proportions can help us maintain good health as well as lowering the risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and some cancers.
The Eatwell Guide does not cut out any food groups however focuses on cereals, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, dairy, protein, and fibre consumption, while recommending a reduced consumption of sugar, saturated fats, salt, and processed meats. Eating a healthy balanced diet has been linked with several health benefits including improved cardiovascular health and reduced cancer risk.
Here are some healthy eating tips:
Aiming for at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day can provide us with a range of vitamins, minerals, and fibre which our body requires to function well.
Base your meals on starchy foods (carbohydrates) such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes – opt for whole grain varieties as they contain fibre, which keep you fuller for longer, aid digestion and can prevent constipation. Starchy foods should make up a 1/3rd of all the food we consume, they provide us with energy and including more fibre is linked with lower risk of bowel cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.
Incorporating dairy and alternatives provides us with a good source of calcium for strong bones and teeth and try opting for lower fat unsweetened versions.
Including some protein such as beans, pulses, fish, eggs, and meat are essential for our body to grow and repair. They also provide our body with a variety of vitamins and minerals. Including dietary protein intake is essential for maintaining lean body mass and in older adults, protein plays a key role in preventing loss of skeletal muscle mass as you age.
Opt for unsaturated oils and spreads e.g. olive oil, nuts and seeds, rapeseed oil, in small amounts which can help lower our cholesterol. All fats should be eaten in small amounts as they are calorie dense. Include essential fatty acids in your diet (omega 3) which can be found in fresh and tinned salmon, mackerel, and sardines (oily fish) and plant-based oils such as flaxseed.
Staying hydrated is important for our health, keeping our brain functioning and heart pumping-aim for 6-8 glasses of fluid/day.
When having food and drinks that are high in fat, salt, and sugar, remember – small amounts and less often. Consuming too much saturated fat can affect our cholesterol levels, too much salt can increase our blood pressure and excess sugar consumption can cause tooth decay and weight gain.
In addition to eating healthy, keeping physically active contributes to your overall health and wellbeing as well as lowering our risk of developing long term chronic conditions
Research has shown that following a Mediterranean diet can have several benefits to our cardiovascular health and cognitive function. The Mediterranean diet focuses on wholegrain foods, fruit and vegetables, small amounts of dairy, good quality fats such as olive oil, quality sources of protein such as fish, pulses and eggs and more fresh produce, along with good amounts of rest and exercise.
Our traditional western diet tends to be more processed with more refined and opting for more healthier alternatives incorporating more plant-based foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and lower in animal-based foods, particularly fatty and processed meats can reduce our risk of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Making small changes such as including an extra portion of fruit and vegetables, a walk twice a week or increasing your hydration with an extra glass of water can be a good starting point to improving your overall lifestyle.
‘Focus on including all food groups rather than excluding a food group. There are no good or bad foods and focus on eating everything in moderation. All foods have a role and place in our diet’.