In order for a healthy diet to be maintained, food should be enjoyable as well as providing a good balance of nutrients. Dietary advice should provide alternatives so that each individual can achieve both a healthy but also an enjoyable diet. The emphasis is on balance and quantity rather than advising complete avoidance of any particular food. A healthy diet will include moderate amounts of milk and dairy products, meat, fish or meat/milk alternatives, and limited amounts of foods containing fat or sugar. In October 2005 the government issued its eight tips for eating well, which are:
- Base meals on starchy foods.
- Eat lots of fruit and vegetables.
- Eat more fish.
- Cut down on saturated fat and sugar.
- Eat less salt - no more than 6 g a day.
- Be active and maintain a healthy weight.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Don't skip breakfast.
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- Eat a variety of different foods: no single food provides all the nutrients required for the body to stay healthy.
- Eat the right amount to be a healthy weight:
- Women tend to need less energy than men and older adults tend to need less energy than adolescents and young adults.
- Regular aerobic exercise is a very important part of weight control.
- Eating breakfast every day can help people control their weight, probably just by decreasing hunger for unhealthy foods later in the day.
- Starch, fibre and wholegrain foods:
- Eat plenty of foods rich in starch and fibre, eg bread, cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes, which also contain fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins.
- Wholegrain foods contain more fibre and other nutrients than white or refined starchy foods and include wholemeal and wholegrain bread, pitta and chapati, whole wheat pasta and brown rice, wholegrain breakfast cereals.
- Wholegrain cereal foods are particularly rich in insoluble fibre, which helps to prevent constipation.
- Soluble fibre in fruit, pulses (beans, lentils and chickpeas) and vegetables can help to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood.
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables:
- There is good evidence that diets rich in fruit and vegetables reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease and possibly some cancers.
- A balanced diet contains at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day. Don't eat the same fruits and vegetables every day.
- One portion of fruit or vegetables = 80 g (1 apple, banana, pear, orange or other similar sized fruit; 2 plums or similar sized fruit, a grapefruit or avocado, 1 slice of large fruit, such as melon or pineapple, 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables (raw, cooked, frozen or tinned), 3 heaped tablespoons of fruit salad (fresh or tinned in fruit juice) or stewed fruit, 1 heaped tablespoon of dried fruit (such as raisins and apricots), dessert bowl of salad, glass (150 mL) of fruit juice, 1 cupful of grapes, cherries or berries).
- At least two portions of fish (fresh, frozen or canned) a week, including a portion of oily fish. Smoked fish can be high in salt.
- Oily fish include salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, fresh tuna, sardines, pilchards, eel.
- Shark, swordfish and marlin: don't have more than one portion a week because of the high levels of mercury.
- Protein: most people should be eating some protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs and pulses.
- Minerals and vitamins: the diet should contain adequate quantities of all essential vitamins and minerals.
- Avoid too many foods that contain a lot of fat:
- Foods high in saturated fat include meat pies, sausages, burgers, meat with visible white fat, hard cheese, butter and lard, pastry, cakes and biscuits, chocolate, cream, soured cream and crème fraîche, coconut oil, coconut cream and palm oil.
- Avoid frequent sugary foods and drinks:
- May cause tooth decay and the high calories may contribute to becoming overweight.
- Avoid excessive salt:
- It contributes to high blood pressure.
- Adults (and children aged 11 years and over) should have no more than 6 g salt a day. Younger children should have even less.
- 75% of the salt we eat comes from processed food - eg some breakfast cereals, ready meals, meat products, soups, sauces, bread, biscuits and ready meals.
- Ensure adequate fluid intake:
- In climates such as the UK, we should drink approximately 1.2 litres (6 to 8 glasses) of fluid every day to stop us getting dehydrated. In hotter climates the body needs more than this.
- Excessive amounts of caffeine-containing drinks (eg tea, coffee and cola) should be avoided because of their diuretic effect.
- Alcohol consumption should be kept within recommended limits:
- Alcohol is also high in calories, so cutting down helps to control weight as well as avoiding other alcohol-related problems.
- Women can drink up to 14 units of alcohol a week and men up to 21 units a week. A unit is:
- Between a third and a half pint of standard strength (3-5%) beer, lager or cider.
- A pub measure of spirit.
- A glass of wine is about 2-3 units and alcopops are about 1.5 units.
- Alcohol intake should be spread throughout the week, ideally with at least 2 alcohol-free days each week, and binge drinking avoided.
Further reading & references
- World Cancer Research Fund; Recommendations for Cancer Prevention.
- European guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice, European Society of Cardiology (2007)
|Original Author: Dr Colin Tidy||Current Version: Dr Colin Tidy|
|Last Checked: 18/02/2011||Document ID: 803 Version: 22||© EMIS|
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