Every day there’s lots of information we can read about what food is or is not healthy. It’s sometimes confusing as to what we should consume to feel really great and when we have to combine a busy lifestyle it can be hard to choose foods which are quick and easy to cook which will full us with vitamins and help to a balanced diet.
Here then is the easy guide on to how to eat healthily; the main message it to keep food fresh, low in saturated fats and to swap processed options for easy to cook dishes.
Food groups are not something to fear. They aren’t complicated and it’s a case of keeping the amounts in the correct proportions. The type of foods to try to eat fall into the following categories:
- Fruit and vegetables
- Starchy foods such as pasta, rice and potatoes
- Non-dairy proteins; fish, lean meat, eggs, pulses (ie kidney beans)
- Some dairy and milk
- Sugar and fat-based foods; only in very small amounts
Fruit and vegetables
Eating fruit and vegetables gives our body the vital vitamins it needs to function. The advice is to eat 5 portions a day; this should be a mixture of different ones rather than all the same to vary the vitamins taken in.
Not knowing what a single portion consists of often puts people off but it’s not as hard as you may think. One banana is a portion as is just an apple or even a pear – it’s that straight forward. For vegetables, around three tablespoons is a portion; anything from mushrooms to peas to butternut squash all counts.
We should try to make starchy foods one third of our daily diet. Perhaps the most versatile in this group is potatoes. There are hundreds of ways to use potatoes in different dishes or on their own and they are very tasty. If you leave on the skin then you’re adding extra vitamins too!
Other choices include pasta and rice. Opt for wholemeal or brown options as they contain more fibre.
Fish, meat, eggs and pulses
Proteins help the body grow and stay strong and eating fresh fish, lean meat, some eggs and a range of pulses are the answer.
Meat should ideally be lean; chicken and turkey are especially healthy options. All though provide iron, zinc and B vitamins; essential for energy and a feeling of well-being.
Fish has lots of very healthy oils and should be eaten at least twice a week. If you’re not sure how to cook a piece of fish, just ask at the fishmongers shop or your supermarket fish counter and the staff will be happy to offer advice and ideas.
Eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds offer excellent protein sources but be careful with the amount consumed as some have high fat levels.
Dairy and milk
Needed for strong bones and teeth, milk, cheese and yoghurt all add to the healthy plate of food to eat each day. Avoid full fat varieties though and opt for semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, lower-fat cheeses and low in fat yoghurts.
Sugar and fatty foods
Many in the UK eat a large amount of foods which are high in fat, sugar and salt. Often present in high quantities in takeaway meals, processed foods and snacks, they are the quick choice for many busy people. Sadly this is resulting in increasing levels of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Saturated fats should be avoided as much as possible. They are found in products such as pies, sausages, crisps, cakes and biscuits.
Sugar is naturally occurring in many foods so there’s often no need to add extra. Fizzy drinks, jam, cakes and pastries have very high levels of sugar. A surprising number of savoury processed ready meals also include a great deal of sugar.
Make changes slowly so it doesn’t feel like an uphill battle. If you start to swap high fat for low fat you won’t notice the difference and look to start cooking quick meals such as stir fries instead of ordering a takeaway and you’ll gradually find that you are feeling much healthier, full of energy and generally positive about life in general.