Many of us in the UK don’t manage to eat a balanced healthy diet. While this is something that has been an issue for many years, it is also an issue that recent times have bought into stark focus as many people struggle to maintain their active lifestyles due to ongoing Coronavirus restrictions.
That makes it more important than ever to maintain a healthy balanced diet, one that gives us everything we need from the five main food groups. Doing so will help to maintain the right body weight for us as individuals and feel at our best, not just physically but mentally too.
Here is a closer look at the main food groups that make up our diet and the ways we might enjoy them in a healthier way.
Fruit and vegetables
The ‘5 A Day’ guidance is based around fruit and vegetables and although five potions daily may seem like a lot, if you break it down throughout the course of a normal day, it is much more manageable than it might at first seem.
A 150ml glass of natural fruit juice for example, drunk once a day equals one of the portions and can easily be enjoyed at breakfast time. Dried fruits, eaten as part of a meal are another great way to boost your fruit intake and again, breakfast is the ideal time to enjoy them with cereal or yoghurt.
For other meals, soups, frozen or tinned vegetables, and those used in stews or pasta dishes are all a great way to get your 5 A Day. It is always worth being cautious though, because many pre-made meals can include high levels of salt, fats and sugars.
Many people make the mistake of including potatoes in their 5 A Day but while they do play an important role in a balanced diet thanks to their starch and fibre content, only sweet potatoes should be included in your daily fruit and vegetable diet.
Starch is an important energy source for our brains and bodies; it gives us glucose energy while also providing an essential source of iron, calcium and vitamin B.
While potatoes shouldn’t be included in your 5 A Day, they are an important source of starch; eaten with the skin they also provide a rich source of fibre.
Wholemeal or wholegrain versions of foods that are rich in starch are a great part of our diets and should form the basis of many of our meals, whole wheat pasta, wholegrain rice and wholemeal brown bread are all ideal foods to help maintain good health.
Foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurts can be rich sources of protein and calcium, however many people have allergies and intolerances towards dairy produce; they are also unsuitable for those on a vegan diet.
It is important to remember that dairy alternatives can also be included in this essential food group. Unsweetened soya drinks, soya based yoghurts and cheeses as well as many rice, oat or potato-based milks are often just as rich in protein and calcium.
Foods which are rich in protein
Protein rich foods help our bodies to grow and repair, they include lean meats, oily fish, beans, pulses and eggs.
Aim to eat fish a couple of times each week, tinned fish and oily fish are viable options too but some smoked fish can be high in salt and should be limited. Poultry is another great source of protein; it is healthier though with the skin removed prior to cooking,
It might seem strange to include fat as part of a healthy diet, yet the right kinds of fat are an essential part of eating well. Too much saturated fat can have a serious impact on our health, causing higher cholesterol, and a greater risk of heart disease
Unsaturated fats are a much healthier option; oils and spreads based around foods such as sunflowers, rapeseed and olives can all play an important role in keeping our hearts healthy. The natural fats in avocados and unsalted nuts such as walnuts also make them excellent snack foods.
For more information on eating well, visit the NHS Eat Well website for further information and a range of valuable resources to help you discover the healthier options that will work for you.