14th March is the start of Nutrition and Hydration Week!
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health and can help you feel your best. To help celebrate Nutrition and Hydration Week, we have put together these tips to cover the basics of healthy eating and the food items you’ll needed for balancing a healthy diet.
Eating a balanced diet
The Eatwell Guide shows that to have a healthy, balanced diet. People should try to:
- eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
- base 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)
It is important to remember that changing your diet is not easy. Do not feel deflated if you struggle to adapt to changing your eating habits – it will likely take time to adjust to, just keep at it and celebrate the gradual successes.
Fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, and should make up just over a third of the food you eat each day.
It’s recommended that you eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. They can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced.
There’s evidence that people who eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
Eating 5 portions is not as hard as it sounds.
A portion is:
- 80g of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables
- 30g of dried fruit – which should be kept to mealtimes
- 150ml glass of fruit juice or smoothie – but do not have more than 1 portion a day as these drinks are sugary and can damage teeth
The idea of eating five portions might sound scary at first, but if you gradually start to incorporate fruit and vegetables into each meal, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to reach this number.
Starchy foods should make up just over a third of everything you eat. This means your meals should be based on these foods. Choose wholegrain or wholemeal varieties of starchy foods, such as brown rice, wholewheat pasta, and brown, wholemeal or higher fibre white bread.
They contain more fibre and usually more vitamins and minerals than white varieties. Potatoes with skins on are a great source of fibre and vitamins. For example, when having boiled potatoes or a jacket potato, eat the skin too.
Starchy foods are important for the diet as they supply you with lots of energy. They are a strong source of fibre, calcium, iron, and B vitamins.
Dairy and Dairy alternatives
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. Choose 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. When buying alternatives, choose unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions.
You don’t have to cut certain foods or food groups out of your diet – finding healthier alternatives means you can continue enjoying the things you love.
Beans, pulses, fish, eggs and meat are all good sources of protein, which is essential for the body to grow and repair itself.
Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc and B vitamins. It’s also one of the main sources of vitamin B12. When balancing a healthy diet, protein is a key element to keep in mind.
Eggs and fish are also good sources of protein and contain many vitamins and minerals. Oily fish is particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Aim to eat at least 2 portions of fish a week, including 1 portion of oily fish.
Pulses, including beans, peas and lentils, are naturally very low in fat and high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. Nuts are high in fibre, and unsalted nuts make a good snack. But they do still contain high levels of fat, so eat them in moderation.
Protein is an important nutrient as it maintains muscle strength, wound healing, makes new cells, helps to repair old cells, and plays a vital role in producing hormones and enzymes that carry out key functions.
Saturated fat, sugar and salt
Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease. Regularly consuming foods and drinks high in sugar increases your risk of obesity and tooth decay. Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which increases your risk of getting heart disease or having a stroke.
A balanced diet means you should still consume these in small amounts, just be careful not to overindulge.
Most adults in England are overweight or obese. Nutrition and Hydration Week is essential to help these people overcome their battle with weight and keeping healthy by balancing a healthy diet.
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