There are two main considerations when it comes to a healthy diet:
· Balance – this means eating a wide variety of foods
· Proportions – consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
There are five main food groups, from which our diet should include:
1) Fruit and vegetables
These should make up about a third of your daily diet and it is recommended that we eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, as they contain vital vitamins and minerals. Research suggests this can help to protect against cancer, obesity and various chronic diseases such as heart disease.
2) Starchy Foods
Starchy foods such as bread, cereals, potatoes, pasta and rice are an important part of a healthy diet. They should also make up about a third of your diet and contain the carbohydrates that are the body’s main source of energy.
Try and choose wholegrain or wholemeal varieties, such as brown rice and brown wholemeal bread. They contain more fibre, and usually more vitamins and minerals than white varieties.
3) Milk and dairy foods
Milk and dairy foods such as cheese and yoghurt are good sources of protein. They also contain calcium, which helps to keep your bones healthy. These should be eaten in moderation because of their high saturated fat content, try to choose low-fat or reduced-fat versions, such as skimmed milk.
This group includes meat, fish, eggs, pulses, beans, nets and seeds. These foods are all good sources of protein, which is essential for growth and repair of the body. They are also good sources of a range of vitamins and minerals, and help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
5) Fat and sugar
Fats and sugar are both sources of energy for the body, but when we eat too much of them we consume more energy than we burn, and this can mean that we put on weight. Although they’re an important energy source, they contain very few nutrients and are often known as ‘empty calories’.
There are two types of fat – saturated fat is found in foods such as cheese, sausages, butter and cakes. It can raise your blood cholesterol level and increase your risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, can help to lower cholesterol and provide us with the essential fatty acids needed to help us stay healthy. Oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oils are sources of unsaturated fat.
There are also two types of sugar – those found naturally in fruit and milk, which give us other nutrients and those that are added to the diet.
Tips for a balanced diet
- Eat a variety of foods, and try to have a range of colours on your plate.
- Try new foods – buy some recipe books for inspiration.
- Too much as well as too little can be bad for you – balance is required
- Pay attention to your portion size. Everyone’s plate will look slightly different as we all have different requirements depending on our body’s shape and size, and our levels of activity.
- Cut down on saturated fat & sugar.
- Eat less salt – no more than 6g a day for adults.
- Don’t skip breakfast – it kick-starts your metabolism for the day!
- Drink plenty of water to enable your body to operate properly. It is recommended we drink a litre every day.
If you would like any more advice on the food groups, please do not hesitate to speak to one of our easyGym staff members on the gym floor, or take a session with one of our Personal Trainers who specialises in nutrition.