Now, January can be rather a tricky month for me, when it comes to healthy food goals and maintaining a balanced diet…After all, I’ve enjoyed every minute of gorging on all manner of luxury cheese and mouth-watering calorific desserts over Christmas. Yes, my jeans are too tight and that slinky black dress now makes me look like a beached whale. So, suddenly, the new year starts and it feels like all the fun stops. Well, when it comes to eating way too much fat and sugar, anyway! So, hands up who’s struggling to get back to their food goals this year with a balanced diet? I am and I’m not embarrassed to say it. The thing is, if you’ve overindulged as much as I have, it will be hard to change instantly, won’t it?! So, this week, I’m going to chat about that all important healthy, balanced diet and and how you and I are going to achieve it!
What is a balanced diet?
This, in short, covers a variety of foods which will essentially give your body the energy and nutrients it needs. Now, food variety is key! I mean a combination of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (such as beans), nuts and lean proteins. Fruit and veggies are important and you should eat at least five portions every day. Add starchy foods, from potatoes and bread to rice and pasta, to your eating plan and dairy (or dairy alternatives such as soya). Don’t forget to include beans and pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins, too. However, you do need to eat the right proportions of each to make up a balanced diet. So, as a result, this will help you to maintain good health, help you feel better and can help you stick to a healthy weight.
Why have a balanced diet?
Well, if you ensure good nutrition features in every balanced meal, this could mean you’re less inclined to suffer from fatigue or infection and even disease. For children, the problems are even more serious as poor nutrition can actually affect growth and development. The lack of a balanced diet can even lead to poor academic performance. So, it makes sense to consider ways in which you can ensure you and your family stat leading a more healthy lifestyle.
The Eatwell guide:
Now, The Eatwell Guide is Public Health England’s healthy eating model. In fact, I’ve found it applies to almost everyone apart from those under the age of two. Also, children, aged from two to five, should gradually introduce this method. This way, they can slowly start to join the family and eat the right foods and proportions. I must admit I think it’s a great tool if you’re unsure how to make healthy choices. But I particularly like the fact that it shows the proportions of different food groups you need to create a healthy, balanced diet. You’ll also see foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugars, which are not necessary to form a good balanced diet. You can download a pdf here to help get you started.
Did you know according to The Eatwell Guide, you should aim to drink around six to eight glasses of fluid every day? The good news is you can achieve this with sugar-free drinks, low-fat milk and of course water. I do love a variety so this is ideal for me and I always have a stainless steel bottle of water on my desk.
How to eat more healthily:
Add fruit and veggies:-
I think most of us already know we should be eating at least five portions every day. But, typically, so many people won’t. Now I’m moving back towards a more balanced diet, fruit and veggies are making up more than a third of the food I’m eating every day. The good news is that you don’t need to visit your local grocer every few days. Instead, did you know you can stock up on frozen, tinned and dried versions too? In fact, I’m buying more frozen veggies than ever before these days as I hear research suggests they can hold their nutrients better than some fresh ones. I’m not convinced when it comes to frozen fruit however – have you tried frozen raspberries?! So far, I haven’t found anything, which could possibly taste worse! Therefore, I tend to pick mine up ‘fresh’ from a local nursery when they’re available.
Don’t forget starchy foods:-
Now I’ve never had any trouble eating carbohydrates (starchy foods) so, for me, the key is eating these in moderation. They are great energy-boosting foods and should make up another third of your daily balanced diet. The best varieties of starchy foods are wholegrain and wholemeal as they contain more fibre. So, think wholewheat pasta, brown rice and wholemeal bread, for example. These foods can work well if you want to lose weight as they should make you feel fuller for longer. Don’t forget the humble potato! One of my go-toes, on an evening when time is tight, is to cook a couple of sweet potatoes in the microwave, add tuna mayonnaise and a side salad. Then hey presto! You’ve got a really quick and easy meal for two, which you can prepare in minutes.
Include dairy for a balanced diet:-
Dairy (and alternatives) also play an important part in a balanced diet. However, you’ll only need a couple of portions on a daily basis. Of course, dairy can be high in fat – however, I tend to choose full-fat options when I shop then aim to eat less. You could, of course, choose lower fat products but, for me, I find I’ll eat twice as much! This month, I’m steering clear of cheese as I ate way too much this Christmas…If you don’t like or choose not to eat dairy, opt for plant-based milks, such as almond and soya milk, for example. Try to find unsweetened and calcium-fortified versions.
The power of protein:-
You’ll find this in red meat, poultry (chicken and turkey), fish, eggs and pulses. In addition, dairy can provide you with protein. For those of you who are vegetarian or vegan, there’s protein in soya, tofu and Quorn™️. This is essential for the body to grow and repair itself. So, this makes it an important factor to consider in a balanced diet. I tend to eat a lot of fish in my diet however, you should aim to eat at least two portions a week. Don’t forget to include oily fish, too – I particularly enjoy salmon and even mackerel. Lean meat can make a healthy option, but don’t overdo the amount you eat. Beans, peas and lentils, on the other hand, make a great alternative to meat. Not only are they low in fat but they’re high in protein, too.
Eat less sugar
I definitely ate way too much sugar in the holidays. However, even fresh fruit contains some natural sugars. But it’s the processed sugar, which is not a good idea. You’ll find this in all sorts of things, from sweets and biscuits to cakes (my favourite!) and puddings. Don’t forget fizzy drinks and alcohol often contain a lot of sugar, too. Consuming too much sugar can also lead to tooth decay and obesity. So I think it makes sense to look more closely at food and drinks labels.
Watch your salt intake
The problem with watching salt intake is that it can be added to so many foods. I try to look at food labels. After all, you shouldn’t have more than 6g a day. For example, with processed foods, you’ll find if a product has more than 1.5g salt per 100gm, it’s high in salt. If you eat too much salt, it can actually increase your risk of a stroke or even getting heart disease.
Choose unsaturated fats
You’ll find these in vegetable-based cooking oils (rapeseed oil) and spreads, nuts, seeds and oily fish. Unsaturated fats are ideal in a healthy, balanced diet as they help to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. However, I have to hold my hands up to eating butter – and this is high in saturated fats. However, I’m trying to limit this where I can and, after all, nobody’s perfect!