An essential part of maintaining optimum wellbeing is eating a healthy, balanced diet. A healthy diet is made up of the right foods in the correct proportions; you should aim to:
- Eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day
- Base meals on starchy, wholegrain foods
- Include some dairy or dairy alternatives
- Consume a variety of beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein sources
- Choose unsaturated oils and spreads when possible, limiting saturated fat intake
- Eat more high fibre foods, found in fruit, nuts, oats, barley, vegetables and pulses
- Drink plenty of fluids, opting for sugar-free drinks
- Limit the consumption of added salt and sugar in foods
The Eatwell Guide
The Eatwell Guide, previously known as the Eatwell plate, is an infographic designed by Public Health England in association with the Welsh Government, Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency. It has been in use since 2007; however, in recent years, with the shift towards the plant-based diet, the following changes have been made to the guide:
- The ‘fruit and vegetable’ section increasing from 33 to 39 per cent, and the ‘starchy carbohydrates section’ from 33 to 37 per cent.
- Fruit juices have been removed from the ‘fruit and vegetable’ section of the guide as they contain more free sugars which we need to be cautious of. Although fruit juices and smoothies can count as part of our 5-a-day, current guidelines recommend limiting this to one 150ml glass per day.
- The ‘high fat/salt/sugar foods’ section has been removed from the main image and is now on the side of the diagram, indicating that they are a non-essential component of the diet, and should be consumed in small amounts.
- The previous ‘meat, fish, eggs and beans’ section now includes a wider variety of plant-based protein sources with advice to consume less red and processed meat and more oily and sustainably-sourced fish.
- Reducing the dairy section from 15 to 8 per cent and including plant-based, ideally fortified alternatives. This reduction is also in line with the aim of obtaining calcium from non-dairy options too such as leafy greens, beans and tofu.
- The ‘oils and spreads’ section is minimal, showing that whilst it is an inevitable part of the diet, they can be high in saturated fat and calories. The recommendation is to incorporate very little of these into the diet and try to opt for unsaturated fats (plant oils and margarine) as opposed to solid saturated fats (butter and lard).
- Advice on water/fluid intake, aiming for 6-8 glasses a day of water and sugar-free drinks such as tea, coffee, and milk.
- The ‘knife and fork’ either side of the plate have been removed to represent that the guide should be seen as a general daily/weekly aim rather than for every individual meal.
- Finally, we can see some general guidance for calorie intake at the bottom of the infographic – 2000kcal/day for women and 2500 kcal/day for men.
Kamsons’ top tips for a balanced diet
- Fresh, tinned, dried, frozen, juiced fruit and vegetables all count as a part of your 5-a-day, so don’t be afraid if it is processed.
- To increase fibre, mineral and B-vitamin intake, opt for whole grains such as brown rice, bread, pasta and leave skins on potatoes.
- Choose leaner cuts or cut off excess fat from meats when preparing meals.
- Try cooking with plant-based oils instead of animal-based, but remember that some plant-oils (e.g. coconut oil) are high in saturated fats, too.
- Although the Eatwell Guide is adaptable to a variety of diets and cultures, those with special dietary requirements, allergies, intolerances or other medical needs may wish to consult a registered dietician on how they can adapt the guide most suitably to their lifestyle.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is vital to prevent the risks of many complications such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. With the increased availability of cheap, nutrient-poor food and our sedentary lifestyles, it has become easier to put on weight, and more challenging to lose it. A combination of a balanced diet and regular exercise can help to reverse these and maintain an ideal weight.
Rather than cutting out food groups and restricting your diet, it may be more useful to increase consumption of dietary fibre and starchy whole grains to your diet, which will help you feel fuller for longer. As well as this, try to find forms of exercise which you enjoy, be it dancing, swimming, yoga, climbing, or even walking. Check your local area and gym to see what activities are available, or search the internet for classes to take from the comfort of your own home. The NHS also offers a free 12-week weight loss plan which is available here.