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Healthy Eating Week 2021

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Healthy Eating Week 2021

How to eat healthy

Present diets are correlated with a high burden of disease: globally 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese, 462 million are underweight and over 30% of the world’s population suffers from deficiencies of essential nutrients (WHO).

In the UK Public Health England developed the Eatwell Guide to show the government recommendations on what is considered a healthy diet with the help of this evidence-based guide. It is a good starting point for anyone who wants to know how to eat a healthy balanced diet.

The Eatwell Guide

Eating a healthy, balanced diet with a variety of foods in the right proportions can help us to maintain good health as well as lowering the risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and some cancers.

The Eatwell Guide does not cut out any food groups but focuses on cereals, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, dairy, protein, and fibre consumption.  It also recommends a reduced consumption of sugar, saturated fats, salt, and processed meats. Eating a healthy balanced diet has been linked with several health benefits including improved cardiovascular health and reduced cancer risk.

Healthy eating tips!

  • Aiming for at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day can provide us with a range of vitamins, minerals, and fibre which our body requires to function well.
  • Base your meals on starchy foods (carbohydrates) such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes – opt for whole grain varieties as they contain fibre, which keep you fuller for longer, aid digestion and can prevent constipation. Starchy foods should make up a 1/3rd of all the food we consume, they provide us with energy and including more fibre is linked with a lower risk of bowel cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.
  • Incorporating dairy and alternatives provides us with a good source of calcium for strong bones and teeth – try opting for lower fat, unsweetened versions.
  • Including some protein such as beans, pulses, fish, eggs, and meat are essential for our body to grow and repair. They also provide our body with a variety of vitamins and minerals. Including dietary protein intake is essential for maintaining lean body mass and in older adults, protein plays a key role in preventing loss of skeletal muscle mass as you age.
  • Opt for unsaturated oils and spreads e.g. olive oil, nuts and seeds, rapeseed oil, in small amounts which can help lower our cholesterol. All fats should be eaten in small amounts as they are calorie dense. Include essential fatty acids in your diet (omega 3) which can be found in fresh and tinned salmon, mackerel, and sardines (oily fish) and plant-based oils such as flaxseed.
  • Staying hydrated is important for our health, keeping our brain functioning and heart pumping-aim for 6-8 glasses of fluid/day.
  • When having food and drinks that are high in fat, salt, and sugar, remember – small amounts and less often. Consuming too much saturated fat can affect our cholesterol levels, too much salt can increase our blood pressure and excess sugar consumption can cause tooth decay and weight gain.
  • In addition to eating healthy, keeping physically active contributes to your overall health and wellbeing as well as lowering our risk of developing long term chronic conditions

Mediterranean diet

Research has shown that following a Mediterranean diet can have several benefits to our cardiovascular health and cognitive function. The Mediterranean diet focuses on wholegrain foods, fruit and vegetables, small amounts of dairy, good quality fats such as olive oil, quality sources of protein such as fish, pulses and eggs and more fresh produce, along with good amounts of rest and exercise.

Our traditional western diet tends to contain more processed foods and more refined sugars.  Opting for healthier alternatives incorporating more plant-based foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and lower animal-based foods, particularly fatty and processed meats can reduce our risk of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Make small changes

Making small changes such as including an extra portion of fruit and vegetables, a walk twice a week or increasing your hydration with an extra glass of water can be a good starting point to improving your overall lifestyle.

Focus on including all food groups in your diet rather than excluding a food group (there are no good or bad foods) and focus on eating everything in moderation. All foods have a role and place in our diet.

Important – People with special dietary needs or a medical condition should ask their doctor or a registered dietitian for advice before following the above tips

Further support

Contact One You Merton for support to eat well, move more, drink less or stop smoking on 020 8973 3545 or you can register online.

Gopika Chandratheva,
Nutritionist

References

Healthy Eating (bda.uk.com)

Health matters: obesity and the food environment – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

How to get more fibre into your diet – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Defining a Healthy Diet: Evidence for the Role of Contemporary Dietary Patterns in Health and Disease (nih.gov)

Health impacts and environmental footprints of diets that meet the Eatwell Guide recommendations: analyses of multiple UK studies | BMJ Open

Eat well – NHS (www.nhs.uk)