What do we need to eat to be healthy? Which diet is the best to follow? What is classed as a balanced diet? What's a macro? Should we eat less carbs and more fat? How much protein do I need? What is a carb anyway? So many questions.....too much information.....where to start?
Poor nutritional choices, no matter how physically active you are, have a very negative impact on your overall health. Health......a word aired into just about everything we do. Health by definition is "being of optimal bodily system function and an absence of disease" so ultimately this is all we need from the food we put into our bodies. The saying "we are what we eat" is in fact true. Nutrition effects us at a cellular level hence why bad food choices can lead to a wide range of avoidable illnesses such as obesity and type II diabetes
A good guideline to adopt is the "Eat Well Plate" with it's graphic detailing and directional advice on a sustainable healthy way of eating. The idea is to eat as "clean" as possible and to avoid processed packaged foods or food that is ladened with sugar or unnatural substances. The "Eat Well Plate" tells us to base our daily intake on meals of natural starchy food such as potatoes, bread, rice pasta and fortified cereals, eats lots of fruit and veg and eat more fish for protein. To maintain this healthier way of eating we should limit our intake of salt and unhealthy processed fats. An addition to maintaining optimal bodily functions is to stay hydrated and drink 6 to 8 tall glasses of water. If we look at the food pyramid to verify this a little more, we can see the daily portions of our "Eat Well Plate"
- 6+ portions of natural starchy foods (bread, cereals, potatoes, rice and pasta)
- 5 portions of fruit and vegetables (preferably 3 vegetables and 2 fruits)
- 3 portions of dairy (milk, cheese, yogurts, milk products)
- 2 portions of protein (meat, fish, eggs, meat alternatives)
- Very small amounts of processed foods (sugar, high fats, packaged food)
- Limit alcohol intake and drink at least 6 glasses of water a day.
- Adult males consumption per day should be 2,550 calories
- Adult Female consumption per day should be 1950 calories
It is not necessary to count calories to follow the advice of the "Eat Well Plate" if you find this difficult to maintain in the long term. For ease you can use the following established portion sizes:
Small fruit = 2 satsumas, 2 kiwi, 2 plums, 7 strawberries, 14 cherries
Medium fruit = 1 apple, 1 banana, 1 orange, 1 pear
Large fruit = half a grapefruit , 5cm slice of melon, 1 large slice pineapple
Dried fruit = 30g raisins/sultanas, 1 handful of banana chips
Fruit juice = 150ml
Green Veg = 2 broccoli spears, 4 heaped tbsp of kale, spinach or green beans
Salad Veg = 3 sticks of celery, 5cm slice of cucumber, 1 medium tomato or 7 cherry tomatoes
Cooked veg = 3 heaped tbsp of cauliflower, peas, carrots or corn
Starchy foods = 1 slice of bread, handful of pasta/rice, handful of cereals, 1 small to medium potato
Proteins (meat, fish, eggs, beans) = lean meat the size of a deck of cards, 1 large egg, side of fish the size of a standard cheque book, handful of beans, nuts or seeds
Milk and Dairy = small cup of milk, 150ml of yogurt, a piece of cheese the size of a small matchbox
Foods high in sugar and processed fats, such as cakes, sweets, crisps, biscuits etc
Limit these foods to less than 8% of your daily intake
Understanding portion sizes can be half the battle in controlling the amount of calories you are consuming and a food diary dramatically boost good food habits or help with weight loss. The act of writing down what you eat will make you aware of what, when and how much you are consuming in one day, leading to good habits, fewer calories and a happier, healthier lifestyle.
I hope this helps you to understand the reasons why food is so important in achieving optimum health and why good nutrition assists us in the prevention illness and disease.
Instead of following the latest fad or food controlling diets, why not start a food diary and use portion sizes to help you on your journey towards optimum health.
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