Healthy Eating — It's a Balancing Act
Eat a healthy, varied diet and live a more fulfilled, active life
While you may daily be bombarded with information about the latest fad diets that will supposedly transform your life, the real secret to healthy eating is variety, in other words, a balanced diet.
We’ve probably all tried a fad diet at some point, cutting out carbs, fasting for two days a week, or replacing meals with a low-calorie shake, but the truth is, crash diets will often do more harm than good. These ‘miracle diet plans’ may have short-term gains, such as weight loss, but by cutting out certain food groups or drastically lowering your calorie intake, you are likely to be depriving your body of essential nutrients. Crash diets can even slow down your metabolism, leading to fatigue and weight gain. As soon as you go back to eating normally, your body will end up storing calories in case you try and starve it again — and the weight will go back on, plus some.
It’s a balancing act
Balance and variety are the key words to bear in mind for a healthy eating plan. Eating foods from all the major food groups, including proteins, carbohydrates, fibre and fats – yes fats – will help ensure you are providing your body and mind with all the essential nutrients they need. The main message here is don't cut out any of the major food groups, they all have an important role to play in providing your body with a healthy balance of nutrients.
Keep the carbs
Carbohydrates have often been painted as the bad guys, with some diets even suggesting we cut them out altogether. Don’t dismiss carbs, just be choosy. It’s definitely a good idea to limit the amount of ‘white carbs’ you consume. These include white bread and regular wheat pasta. These foods are highly processed and contain hardly any nutritional goodness or fibre.
Also, avoid foods with added sugar. This includes the obvious culprits such as sweets and fizzy drinks, but also check the labels on other products you buy. Many ‘low fat’ processed foods, for example, are packed with added sugar, so not the healthy option you might think.
When it comes to carbs, go for unprocessed options, including whole grains and brown rice. If you love potatoes, keep the skins on for added fibre.
Some fats are good
Fats may sound like a swear word, but not all of them are bad. The fact is, our bodies need some fat. Try and get the majority of your fat intake from healthy sources, such as oily fish, nuts and avocados. These healthy fats have a range of benefits – the Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats in oily fish, such as salmon and tuna, help reduce the risk of heart disease, for example.
The fats you want to avoid, or limit, are saturated fats found in fatty red meats. If you love your meat, look for lean cuts or opt for white meats with the skins removed.
Salt it out!
One major enemy to our health is excess sodium; too much of it can seriously raise blood pressure with all the negative health implications that come with that. A healthy sodium intake is as little as two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt a day. Watch out for ready meals and other processed foods, as they are often excessively high in sodium – always read those food labels!
The Government endorsed Eatwell Guide sums up the importance of a balanced diet. Here’s what the guide has to say: “No single food contains all the essential nutrients the body needs to stay healthy and work properly. For this reason, our diets should contain a variety of different foods, to help us get the wide range of nutrients that our bodies need.”