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Healthy eating

The benefits of healthy eating.

Healthy eating is one of the factors that contribute to our wellbeing, but what constitutes a healthy diet? The modern, fast-paced life has led to us eating more convenience foods and take away meals than ever before. These types of food have a tendency to contain a lot of sugar, salt, saturated fat, toxins and chemicals. If we eat a lot of processed food our bodies can become nutritionally starved of essential vitamins and minerals, leaving us feeling sluggish and lacking in energy. Eating a healthy diet doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive, it just takes a bit of planning.

The effects of what we eat

The food we eat will either give us greater health and higher energy or poorer health and lower energy.

Think about a car, which needs the right petrol and oil to perform at its best. Your body is the same. It needs all the essential nutrients to perform at its optimum. Putting the wrong fuel in your body will result in low energy and eventually poor health. We’re not talking about the latest diet craze, but a life-long, life-enhancing commitment to eating well.

The body was designed to eat whole, natural, unrefined foods so watch out for additives and preservatives, along with high levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat. It is modern processing techniques that have led to an increase in highly processed foods in our diet. If we eat a lot of processed food our bodies can become nutritionally starved of essential vitamins and minerals, leaving us feeling sluggish and lacking in energy.

Our health, energy and weight are a reflection of what we eat and drink. Eating and drinking more of the good stuff gives your body all of the nutrients it needs to thrive. Implement good habits, while dropping your bad habits and you’ll be seeing the results very soon.

First things first: hydration

People need between 1.6 to 2 litres of fluid every day in order to prevent dehydration. Try to avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks. All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water and lower-fat milk are healthier choices. Fruit juice can count towards your five a day, but even fruit juice is sugary. The NHS recommends that you stick to one glass of fruit juice per day (about 150 ml). In warmer weather, or when exercising, people may need to increase their fluid intake accordingly. Please note that flavoured water drinks can contain high levels of sugar, so do always check the label.

For further information, see the NHS website.

Problem foods

Many foods are bad for your health. If you want a balanced diet, you should try to avoid or at least cut down on the following:-

  • fat
  • sugar
  • salt.

Tips for a healthy eating plan

According to the NHS, the majority of adults eat more calories than they need. Ideally, a healthy eating plan will allow for people to eat the right amount of calories for how active they are. The NHS recommends that men should have around 2,500 calories a day and women around 2,000 calories a day. Ideally each meal should contain a combination of:-

  • good starchy foods and carbohydrates
  • good fat
  • good protein
  • fresh fruit and vegetables for vitamins.

Starch

Starch should make up one third of the foods we eat. People often assume that starchy foods are fattening, but many starchy foods are high in fibre and low in calories, in particular when wholegrain options are used. Examples include potatoes, cereals, pasta, rice and bread. Wherever possible choose wholegrain and eat potatoes with their skins on for more fibre.

Good fat

Not all fat is bad for you. Examples of healthy options include fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, flaxseed oil, sesame oil, eggs, avocado and olives.

Good protein

Protein is an essential part of a balanced diet and is also an important source of vitamins and minerals. Examples of healthy options include chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, tofu, lentils, beans and other pulses, and eggs.

Fruit and vegetables

Along with this add plenty of fresh vegetables, salad and seasonal fruit. Government guidelines say that people should have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. The NHS has a good selection of recipes to help people to get started on their five a day, including options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For further information, including recipe suggestions, see the NHS website.

Further support and information:

  • This factsheet is a condensed version of our main healthy eating factsheet. You can read the full version here.
  • Click here for information and support on eating disorders.
  • Read our factsheet on exercise.
  • Print off and complete the Seven Days of Movement challenge.