Food Basics – What Should We Be Eating?

Basic CMYK

This week I have been going back to basics of what we actually should be eating.

We all know that we should be watching our calories but just as important is where those calories come from.

You know the guideline about eating “5 a day”? This comes from the NHS EatWell plate which highlights the proportions of different food groups that make up a healthy diet.

In truth the “5 a day” is an oversimplification – it actually suggests a minimum  of 2 portions of fruit and  3 veg – along with portion guides for carbs, protein, dairy and even fats and sugars.

When it comes to fruit & veg, they should ideally be eaten whole and include the skin where possible.  Unfortunately juice only counts as 1 portion no matter how much you drink! A fresh smoothie on the other hand is great way to include more in your diet. Try using lots of different coloured veg to maximise the nutrition benefits.

Carbs include bread, pasta, potatoes and rice – the healthiest option is to avoid or limit any white carbs – so think more about using whole meal bread, pasta and rice and use sweet potatoes and squashes instead of white potatoes for your mash, roasts and chips.

Protein should come from a variety of sources, so limit red meats such as beef (which are higher in fat) and try to eat fish at least twice per week, as well as including some non-animal sources like nuts and beans.

When cooking try to steam, flash fry or bake in a small drizzle of oil (either olive or coconut) and avoid boiling and deep fat frying as these methods lose the most nutrients.

Try to cook from fresh when possible and avoid pre-made sauces which often contain lots of sugar.

In terms of Dairy use the lower fat varieties and for a bit of  good news – fats and sugars do form part of a healthy diet so you don’t need to completely avoid crisps and sweets to be healthy – it’s about getting the balance right!

This is why I don’t like “diets”  – they ban the things you enjoy, can restrict your calorie intake too much (to the point of starvation) and can leave you lacking in vital nutrients. While they may help in losing weight at the start, inevitably you end up hating the restrictions and (as they are usually temporary) go back to how you were eating before and put the weight back on – but more on this another time….for now, going back to basics, it is far better to eat a balanced diet that matches your body’s needs.

Getting back to the EatWell plate – the number of portions you should have, depends on your daily calorie requirement – for the average male and female with moderate activity levels this works out at approximately 2500 and 2000 respectively. If you are more active, you would need more or if you are a little more sedentary then you would need less.

If you want to calculate your individual calorie requirement you could use an online calculator such as this: Daily Calorie Calculator

Which takes into account gender, age, height and weight as well as activity levels.

A lot of people struggle with portion size – to make it easy you can use your hand as a guide: a portion of protein (eg meat) should be the size of your palm, a portion of fruit or veg the size of your open hand and a portion of carbs the size of your fist.

That’s it for the basics – if you need more help, phone apps like My Fitness Pal or VirtuaGym’s Calorie,Carb & Fat Counter can help track both your calorie and nutrient intake, and the web is full of videos and recipes for quick healthy and tasty meals – or you can even get in touch with me 😀

In a future post I’ll look a little deeper into macro nutrients, supplements, food choices/alternatives and my dislike of diets 😉

Until next time…..

Healthy food infograph


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