The Principles of a Healthy Diet

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  • Always start the day with a good healthy breakfast!
  • Aim to have 3 meals a day preferably at regular times with a small snack in between. Regular meals are important to keep blood sugar balanced: this helps to maintain energy levels which is especially important for children.
  • Eat a rainbow diet every day: Eating a multi-coloured variety of plant foods isn’t just attractive; it’s good for you.

Each colour relates to a different plant chemical, each with particular health benefits. By eating small amounts of a wide variety of foods, you get the broadest range of nutrients with which to maintain health.

  • Keep well hydrated:Your body cannot store water therefore it is important to drink plenty of it to replenish losses and maintain healthy function of all your body cells.Water is the most abundant substance in the body and is necessary for survival. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water or herb tea a day.
  • Eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day: A portion is approximately equivalent to the average sized apple or the size of what you can fit in the palm of your hand. Fruit and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals and provide a great source of fibre. They are important for the immune system and to keep skin and eyes healthy.

Some micronutrients can be easily destroyed by heat, try and eat raw vegetables in addition to cooked such as celery, peppers, cucumber, carrots and salad as often as possible to benefit from their optimum nutritional content. If you think your vegetables need additional flavoring, add fresh chopped herbs, lemon juice or freshly ground pepper.

  • Eat whole grains: Whole grains are grains which have not been processed. They are an important source of carbohydrate and are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Fibre is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Most fibre comes from whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, pasta and cereals as well as from fruit and vegetables. Food processing makes many of these grains ‘white’ e.g white flour which is used in many products such as white bread, biscuits and cakes, this process depletes the grains of vital nutrients especially B vitamins. Try to include grains in your diet which are not processed such as whole meal bread, whole meal pasta, brown rice, rye, millet, barley, oats and bulgur.
  • Eat the essential fats: Some fats are vital for the body to function healthily. Fats are found mainly in plants, fish and meat. They form a major part of healthy cell function and play a vital role in the absorption of fat soluable vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat gives the body insulation; it also serves as an important source of energy. It is important however to eat the right kinds of fats.

Include plenty of omega 6 and omega 3 in your diet. These are essential fats because the body cannot make them. They help to support the immune system, brain function, cardiovascular health, vision and help to reduce inflammation. Rich sources of omega 3 are linseeds, oily fish, and pumpkin seeds. Omega 6 is found in sunflower seeds, sesame seeds grapeseed oil, walnuts and corn oil.

Avoid too much saturated fat found in butter, some processed foods and red meat especially the skin. Try to stick to unsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and some plant oils. When cooking meat trim off any excess fat.

Always look at the label, what is high fat and what is low? High fat content is more than 20g fat per 100g. Low fat is 3g fat or less per 100g.

  • Have protein with every meal: Protein is important for growth and repair. Like carbohydrates and fat, protein is an important energy source.In addition enzymes, hormones and antibodies are all different types of protein. Protein is found mainly in meat, fish, eggs, nuts, soya and pulses.
  • The benefits of dairy: Milk and milk products are good sources of protein, vitamins and minerals especially calcium. The daily recommended amount of servings from this group is one to three, this includes milk, cheese, yoghurt and other milk products. One small portion of cheese will give you the daily amount of calcium. If you are concerned about the fat content of these products then stick to low fat e.g skimmed milk, low fat yoghurt.However it is not recommended to give children low fat dairy. Calcium is the main mineral present in teeth and bones and is especially important for children, other sources of calcium include; spinach, greens, sardines, almonds, tofu and canned salmon.
  • Stick to a balanced meal plate: Your food plate should ideally be made up of 1/4 carbohydrates, 1/4 protein and 1/2 vegetables.

Children and young adults especially those who are very physically active will need a greater portion of carbohydrate and protein. Their plate should be made up of 1/3 protein, 1/3 carbohydrate and 1/3 vegetables.

Eat Well! Digestion begins when we think of, smell and see food. Chewing food well begins the breakdown of food improving digestion and allowing your system to utilize more of the nutrients. When we chew food properly and eat slowly we are more aware of when we feel full. Finally, avoid sugary and processed foods as much as possible. Cooking at home, with quality ingredients, isn’t just fun. It also helps keeping you healthy!

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