5 Goals for Good Health

Developing and maintaining good health need not be difficult. Take steps to achieve these goals that will be the basis of a healthy eating plan and pave the way to better health in the long term. Overall, the goal is to have a healthy lifestyle all year which is so much better for our health than embarking on a short-term diet for a week or two every summer.

Changing how, when and what we eat can help us to look and feel better, provide us with the energy we need to be happy and productive, as well as stave off all manner of illness. When considering ways to improve our eating habits we should think about mealtimes, snacks and drinks, our choices at the supermarket, the recipes we use at home and eating out.

Choose healthy meals – what do healthy meals look like?

Foods from each of the five food groups can be eaten throughout the day. Eating a wide variety of foods will provide the important nutrients we need for good health.

See the Eatwell Guide for information on eating a variety of foods.

For example, a main meal might include:

  • Lean protein – like chicken, fish, eggs or tofu
  • Starchy carbohydrates – such as a small baked potato, brown rice or a wholemeal roll – choose wholemeal or wholegrain options whenever possible
  • Vegetables – try broccoli, spinach or a salad

When shopping at the supermarket choose foods that will make it possible to prepare healthy meals and snacks at home. I like to look out for recipes that encourage me to use ingredients that I haven’t tried before, like different beans and pulses, since I am currently trying to eat less meat for health and sustainability reasons. When eating out choose meals that include proteins and vegetables – for example, a Sunday Roast at the pub is a great choice.

Maintain your energy levels

When we eat the right foods and drink plenty of fluids we can sustain good energy levels throughout the day. A good variety of foods will include a combination of  protein, complex carbohydrates and fibre – for example:

  • Breakfast – wholegrain cereal with milk, fruit, juice, tea or coffee
  • Lunch – an egg sandwich made with wholemeal bread, yoghurt, fruit, water
  • Dinner – Jacket potato with beans and side salad, fruit, water, tea or coffee

Healthy snacks between meals may help us to avoid hunger, fatigue, food cravings and energy slumps. Healthy snacks should consist of a drink and a small amount of food that also incorporates a combination of  protein, complex carbohydrates and fibre – for example:

  • fruit, a small piece of cheese, water, tea or coffee
  • crackers with homous or nut butter, vegetable crudités (eg cucumber or carrots), water, tea or coffee

Keeping your fluid intake consistently high is a surprisingly effective way to maintain your energy levels, so we should aim to drink at least two litres of fluid every day (includes water, milk, juice, tea, coffee).

Eat a proper breakfast

Don’t skip breakfast since your energy levels will already be low after a night’s sleep.

Eat a healthy, filling breakfast that includes protein – such as milk, yoghurt, nuts and seeds, beans, eggs, or meat. Don’t forget your starchy carbohydrates and fibre, as found in cereal, muesli, porridge or wholemeal toast. Whenever possible avoid highly processed foods with added sugar (such as some breakfast cereals).

When short on time grab a yoghurt and fruit before leaving the house and eat these while travelling or at work.

Choose good fats for great health

Some fats are beneficial to the body and it is necessary to have fat in our diet for optimal health, including good hair, skin, nails and a well-functioning body.

Healthy fats are naturally found in a range of foods, including:

  • Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna steaks, trout, and sardines)
  • Avocadoes
  • Olives
  • Raw nuts and their oils (eg: walnut oil)
  • Seeds
  • Wheatgerm

Choose healthy fats instead of saturated fats (like butter) for better health.

Treat yourself occasionally

If you choose healthy options at least 80 percent of the time it is possible to eat the occasional dessert or enjoy a party without feeling guilty. If there are times when chocolate becomes a necessity, have a few squares of good quality dark chocolate – preferably with more than 70% cocoa (the higher the cocoa content, the lower the sugar and fat content).

As long as treats are occasional (that is, not every day) and do not become a habit, we can indulge occasionally.

Learning about healthier options and establishing good eating habits can help us to develop and maintain better health. The goal of good health is within our reach.

Enjoy Good Food for Good Health

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An introduction to healthy eating in Latin America

When travelling in Central America recently I was asked to provide an overview of good nutrition and healthy eating for a Latin American audience.

Nutrition: An introduction to healthy eating in Latin America

What do you think?

 

True or false? Carbohydrate foods are fattening

Grain products are often baked, and are rich s...

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False – Foods containing carbohydrates include starchy foods and sugary foods and drinks. The popularity of low-carb diets such as Atkins have given carbohydrates a bad name, but don’t be misled. Foods such as bread, potatoes, rice and pasta play an important part in a healthy, balanced diet (providing energy) and a low-carb diet can leave us feeling tired, make our muscles feel like lead, or make us grumpy. Choosing healthier types of starchy foods can also be beneficial for digestion, blood glucose control and satiety (feeling full).

In the UK we have easy access to a lot of starchy foods which could the reason that these foods are linked with weight gain. Eating large portions of these foods or having a diet that lacks variety  might mean that we are eating a lot of bread, pasta, rice or potatoes, and if we eat too much of any food then we will gain weight. In addition, we often add fats and sugars to these foods – such as butter, creamy sauces, cheese, jam or honey – and these can also contribute to weight gain. I have spoken with many people who say that they avoid sugary foods and drinks but have not realised that eating large amounts of starchy foods could be contributing to their weight gain.

In the UK it is recommended that about 50% of the energy (calories) we eat should come from carbohydrates, with no more than 11% of those calories coming from sugary foods and drinks. For long-term health most of the UK population need to get more of their energy from healthy carbohydrates (bread, cereals and potatoes) combined with sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables and milk and dairy foods. For many adults, including those who are overweight, fibre-rich sources of starchy carbohydrate may help with dietary satiety and weight maintenance or even weight loss.

Please note that young children (under 2 years) and people with high energy requirements but small appetites (like the elderly) may have different requirements for carbohydrates and should look for specific advice (eg: from a Dietitian)

For information about eating a healthy, balanced diet and portion sizes – please refer to the booklet from the Dept of Health called Your guide to the Eatwell Plate