|IN BRIEF: Healthy eating is about providing your body with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Most of us don’t eat as healthily as we should – we don’t eat enough variety, enough fresh fruit and vegetables, and we eat too much fatty, salty, and sugary food.|
By eating less junk food and including more of the right foods in our diets, we can achieve a state of improved wellbeing. The following basic rules can help you to assess your eating habits and make long-term changes to your diet.
1. Eat more variety
We tend to eat the same foods all the time. This is not only dull, but means that we favour certain types of food and deny ourselves essential nutrients and vitamins that a variety of food would offer. More variety means more essential nutrients and vitamins are eaten in our diet.
2. Eat more fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and disease-defying compounds known as ‘antioxidants’ and are essential to your health. However, most of us don’t get enough in our daily diets. Fresh fruit and vegetables are best and should be eaten raw, steamed or baked. Avoid fried fruit and vegetables as well as those smothered in sauce. Find ways to include fruit and vegetables in your daily diet. Fruit can be eaten as smoothies, ice-lollies, or delicious fruit salads. Vegetables can be roasted, tossed in a salad or snacked on between meals. Aim to eat 3 servings of fruit and 5-6 servings of vegetables every day.
3. Drink more water
Water is vital for your health and it is something we just don’t get enough of. Water is needed for every process inside our bodies and helps you to feel energised, flushes out toxins from the body, keeps the kidneys healthy, and helps to ‘normalise’ your appetite. As a general rule, drink 8 glasses of water a day. Those with kidney or heart problems should speak to their doctor about their water requirements.
4. Eat less fatty and fried foods
Fatty foods may be tasty, but it is important to know that fat eaten today will affect you tomorrow. Fat deposited in blood vessels leads to the number one killer worldwide – heart disease. However, not all fat is bad. Unsaturated plant oils (such as in olive oil and sunflower oil) are healthier than animal fats (such as lard and butter). Check food labels for fat content and type of fat, and aim for low fat (less than 10 grams per 100 grams) foods. Be careful of instant meals, certain dairy products and all processed food which can be very high in fat.
5. Eat less sugar and salt
Sugar is a very concentrated form of energy found in sweet foods and certain cool drinks. All the concentrated extra energy you eat is stored as fat and can lead to a range of health complications. Additionally, added sugars provide a rapid increase in energy in the body followed by a rapid decline, leaving you feeling tired and craving more sugar. Salt, although necessary for the functioning of the body, can lead to high blood pressure, dehydration and kidney problems. The average adult consumes 2-3 times the amount of salt they should in their diet. Avoid adding salt to your meals and reduce the amount of junk food you eat.
The bottom line
Eating a healthy diet should not be a chore. It also doesn’t mean you can never enjoy yourself socially or treat yourself to a take-away or chocolate bar. Get into the habit of making healthier food choices and the occasional treat will certainly not dent your health.