How To Eat Healthy

What Is A Balanced diet?

A balanced diet is not a crash diet, it is a way of eating all of the right nutrients that your body needs in order to be healthy. Everyone’s bodies are different and often individuals require a different amount and type of nutrients. This can depend on age, gender, illness and the rate at which your body works.

The following information is for general reference, underlining the basics of a balanced diet. This factsheet will cover how a nutritionist can help you create a personalised diet plan, how they can support and advise you to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

On this page

  • The basics
  • 5 a day
  • Fats – The good and the bad
  • Sugars – What can I eat?
  • Starchy foods
  • Fat burning foods
  • Calcium
  • Protein
  • Salt – How much is too much?

The Basics

To maintain good health, your body needs healthy foods and regular exercise. If you are interested in adopting a more balanced diet or creating a tailored diet plan, understanding and mastering the basics below will help you get started. Below are eight tips that cover the basics of maintaining a balanced diet and choosing the healthier option:

  1. Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. If you can, try to include more. It is said that only a small number of the population reach the full five.
  2. Cut down your sugar and saturated fat intake.
  3. Drink plenty of water, six to eight glasses are the recommended amount. Add a fresh squeeze of lemon if you want a bit of flavour.
  4. Aim for at least two portions of fish every week, with such a variety available you will find it hard to get bored.
  5. Reduce your salt intake. It is advised to eat no more than 6g a day. Avoid adding it to your meals, you’ll be surprised at how much is already there.
  6. Always eat breakfast, it gives you energy for the day. Try to fit in one of that 5 a day!
  7. Use starchy foods as the base of your meals. These act as your fuel for the day.
  8. Get active. Adults aged 19 – 64 are required to conduct 150 minutes moderate exercise a week. Try a brisk walk for 30 minutes daily.

Basic portion sizes

Carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, cereal and potato should generally be the size of your fist. Butter and spreads are often high in fat and sugar, the ideal portion should only be the tip of your thumb. It is suggested that a portion of protein, like meat and fish, is best matching the palm of your hand. Professionals advise the fruit and vegetable portion is the largest. This is a great way to include a range of vegetables to reach that 5 a day. Portion size for products such as cereal, rice and pasta is often printed on the packaging.

To get support and help creating a diet plan tailored to you, contact a nutritionist.

Daily recommendations

The reference intakes you see listed on the back of food and drink packaging are based on the average adult (for example, an average UK woman doing the average amount of physical activity). These guidelines are a good starting point when understanding our recommended allowance and what we should be aiming for each day. If you would like further information on maintaining a balanced diet, this is where a nutritionist can help.

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Daily Recommendations

Women

Men

Energy

2000 kcal

2500 kcal

Total fat

70g

95g

Carbohydrates

230g

300g

Protein

45g

55g

Saturates

20g

30g

Total sugars

90g

120g

Salt

6g

6g

Fibre

24g

24g

 

5 a day

How do you know if you’re getting your 5 a day? You’ll find that it’s actually very easy to slip in five portions of fruit and vegetables if you share them between meals. Here is a simple example of how it can be done:

  • Breakfast – Have a medium glass of orange juice with your breakfast choice (one portion).
  • Mid-morning snack – Eat one medium-sized banana, or three whole dried apricots (one portion).
  • Lunch – Toss a handful or two of fresh lettuce into your sandwich or as a side (one portion).
  • Dinner – Serve your dinner with a handful of broccoli florets (one portion).
  • Pudding – Six strawberries (one portion).

Going over the 5 a day is absolutely fine – the more the better! The only thing to be careful about is fruit, which can contain a lot of sugar. Although natural sugar is good for us in moderation, it can be bad for our teeth and fattening if eaten in large quantities.

Fruit and vegetables are usually low in fat and calories, especially if eaten fresh. If roasting or frying vegetables, try to avoid adding lots of fatty oils. While whole fruit and vegetables are said to be the most beneficial, canned, dried, frozen or blended still offer the benefits the whole foods provide. If you struggle to reach the daily recommendations, try drinking one smoothie a day or adding lots of vegetables to a soup. For more information, please look at our 5 a day page.

What nutrients are found in fruit and vegetables?

There are a huge variety of fruit and vegetables available, all ranging in colour, size, shape and nutritional value. Below are a few examples of the nutrients found in certain fruits and vegetables, and how they can affect our bodies.

The processes in our bodies, such as the digestive system, the circulatory system and the immune system, all require certain minerals to function. Essential minerals include:

Copper is thought to help with the formation of red blood cells and the supplying of oxygen to the body.

Iron helps to transport oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. A deficiency can often lead to anaemia.

Potassium is thought to keep the level of body fluids balanced. Low potassium can lead to cramps, irregular heartbeat, and lung and kidney failure.

Zinc is thought to aid growth, healing and vision. A zinc deficiency can contribute to stunted growth.

Fat burning foods

It is said that there are some foods that can promote weight loss. Most are reported to burn more calories than they take in, increase muscle build-up or have potential to jump-start your metabolism. Try including some of the below in your diet plan:

  • almonds
  • eggs
  • berries
  • peanut butter
  • fatty fish
  • green tea
  • chilli peppers
  • spinach
  • beans.

 

Calcium

Calcium is needed to keep our bones and teeth strong. Dairy is a good source of calcium as it can be absorbed easily. Milk and dairy products, like cheese, yoghurt and milk, are good sources of calcium and protein, but also include fat. For a healthier option, choose skimmed milk, they still contain all the nutritional benefits but have lower fat content.

Meat, fish, beans and eggs all provide our bodies with a good source of protein. Protein is essential for the body to develop and repair itself. While pulses (beans, nuts and seeds) are a good source of protein, they do contain high levels in fat. Nuts are high in fibre and are a good alternative to saturated fats, but do eat in moderation as too much fat can be damaging.

The best sources of protein are those that are low in fat.

Salt – How much is too much?

Salt is in more food than we think. Ready meals and pre-cooked products often have salt added in production. Too much salt can cause high blood pressure, this can result in a higher chance of developing heart disease. Many of these processed foods add salt to enhance flavour.

Sugars – What can I eat?

There are two types of sugar, one is beneficial to our body and the other is thought to be bad. The bad sugars are unnaturally added to many products we see in supermarkets, for example, confectionery, desserts and soft drinks. Natural sugars are said to be good for the body, often found in fruit and honey. In terms of your 5 a day, try not to focus on fruit, this can potentially increase your sugar intake to an unhealthy level.

Starchy foods

Many ‘crash diets’ suggest cutting out starchy foods as a way to lose weight quickly. In reality, starchy foods are a vital part of maintaining a balanced diet. They contain less than half the amount of calories found in fat and provide the necessary energy we need.

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