Most people would probably agree that eating a healthy diet is a good thing, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone understands what a healthy diet is or that it’s easy to do in reality. In this article, we’ll take a look at what healthy eating means, what the benefits of a well-balanced diet are and how you can start to introduce healthier food choices into your diet.
An Introduction to Healthy Eating
When it comes to eating well, there is no fixed rule or ‘one size fits all’ solution. We’re all individuals, with differing genetics, lifestyles, and nutritional requirements. If you have health conditions, such as diabetes or coeliac disease, or certain allergies, then you may have specific dietary requirements.
However, in broad terms, there are guidelines that you can use to help you make healthier choices when it comes to food and following these can improve your overall health.
The Benefits of Healthy Eating
Healthy eating has a wide range of proven benefits. Eating well reduces your risk of becoming overweight or obese, which in itself comes with many health risks. This can help you lead a fuller, more active life without health complications.
A balanced diet strengthens your immune system, helping you to fight off illness and recover quicker. A good diet can also improve your mental health.
A healthy, balanced diet can also reduce your risk of health conditions such as:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Certain types of cancer
The food groups and which ones we should be eating less of
There are a few healthy eating principles that apply to most people:
- Eat fewer processed foods, especially those high in sugar, salt and unsaturated fat.
- Eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
- Eat plenty of protein from a range of sources.
- Include more fibre-rich foods.
- Include some dairy or dairy alternatives.
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Drink plenty of water.
People often get confused about what exactly counts as a portion when it comes to your 5 a day. Obviously, one grape will not have the same benefits as an entire watermelon! The NHS has a handy guide on portion sizes but as a general rule, a portion of fruit or veg should be approximately the size of the palm of your hand.
When trying to eat healthily, people often focus on meals and forget to include snacks between meals. There are many myths about snacking, including that it’s bad for you and can cause weight gain, however, snacking can actually be a good thing, providing that you make the right choices. For example, reaching for a healthy cereal bar packed with nuts is a far healthier alternative than a packet of crisps or a doughnut when you need a pick-me-up during the day.
Healthy eating isn’t just about losing weight and it certainly doesn’t mean eating salad all the time and denying yourself any treats! A healthy diet is well balanced and nutritious and eating well has a wide range of health benefits that can help you live well for longer.