Dietary Advice – 8 top tips for eating well!
As obesity is the most rapidly rising health risk in the UK today, here are some practical tips to help you make healthier choices with your diet and weight loss efforts:
1. Base your meals on starchy foods
Starchy foods such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes are a really important part of a healthy diet. Try to choose wholegrain varieties of starchy foods whenever you can. Starchy foods should make up about a third of the food you eat. They are a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients in our diet. As well as starch, these foods contain fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins.
2. Eat lots of fruit and veg
Most people know we should be eating more fruit and veg. But most of us still aren’t eating enough. Try to eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. It might be easier than you think. You could try adding up your portions during the day.For example, you could have:
- A glass of juice and a sliced banana with your cereal at breakfast
- A side salad at lunch
- A pear as an afternoon snack
- A portion of peas or other vegetables with your evening meal
You can choose from fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced, but remember potatoes count as a starchy food, not as portions of fruit and vegetable.
3. Eat more fish
Most of us should be eating more fish – including a portion of oily fish each week. It’s an excellent source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. Aim for at least two portions of fish a week, including a portion of oily fish. You can choose from fresh, frozen or canned.
Some fish are called oily fish because they are rich in certain types of fats, called omega 3 fatty acids, which can help keep our hearts healthy. Good examples of oily fish are: salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, fresh tuna, sardines, pilchards, eel.
4. Cut down on saturated fat and sugar
To stay healthy we need some fat in our diets. What is important is the kind of fat we are eating. There are two main types of fat:
- saturated fat – having too much can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases the chance of developing heart disease
- unsaturated fat – having unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat lowers blood cholesterol
Try to cut down on food that is high in saturated fat and have foods that are rich in unsaturated fat instead, such as vegetable oils (including sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil), oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds.
Foods high in saturated fat
Try to eat these sorts of foods less often or in small amounts:
- meat pies, sausages, meat with visible white fat
- hard cheese
- butter and lard
- cakes and biscuits
- cream, soured cream and crème fraîche
- coconut oil, coconut cream or palm oil
For a healthy choice, use just a small amount of vegetable oil or a reduced-fat spread instead of butter, lard or ghee. And when you are having meat, try to choose lean cuts and cut off any visible fat.
Most people in the UK are eating too much sugar. We should all be trying to eat fewer foods containing added sugar, such as sweets, cakes and biscuits, and drinking fewer sugary soft and fizzy drinks. Having sugary foods and drinks too often can cause tooth decay, especially if you have them between meals. Many foods that contain added sugar can also be high in calories so cutting down could help you control your weight.
5. Try to eat less salt – no more than 6g a day
Lots of people think they don’t eat much salt, especially if they don’t add it to their food. But don’t be so sure! Every day in the UK, 85% of men and 69% of women eat too much salt. Adults – and children over 11 – should have no more than 6g salt a day. Younger children should have even less. Three-quarters (75%) of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, such as breakfast cereals, soups, sauces and ready meals. So you could easily be eating too much salt without realising it. Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure. And people with high blood pressure are three times more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than people with normal blood pressure.
6. Get active and try to be a healthy weight
It’s not a good idea to be either underweight or overweight. Being overweight can lead to health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. The main things to remember are:
- Only eat as much food as you need
- Make healthy choices – it’s a good idea to choose low-fat and low-sugar varieties, eat plenty of fruit and veg and wholegrains
- Get more active
Physical activity is a good way of using up extra calories, and helps control our weight. But this doesn’t mean you need to join a gym.
Just try to get active every day and build up the amount you do. For example, you could try to fit in as much walking as you can into your daily routine. Try to walk at a good pace.
Whenever we eat more than our body needs, we put on weight. This is because we store any energy we don’t use up – usually as fat. Even small amounts of extra energy each day can lead to weight gain.
But crash diets aren’t good for your health and they don’t work in the longer term. The way to reach a healthy weight – and stay there – is to change your lifestyle gradually. Aim to lose about 0.5 to 1kg (about 1 to 2lbs) a week, until you reach a healthy weight for your height.
7. Drink plenty of water
We should be drinking about 6 to 8 glasses (1.2 litres) of water, or other fluids, every day to stop us getting dehydrated. When the weather is warm or when we get active, our bodies need more than this. But avoid drinking soft and fizzy drinks that are high in added sugar.
There is nothing wrong with the occasional drink. But drinking too much can cause problems. Alcohol is also high in calories, so cutting down could help you control your weight. Women can drink up to 2 to 3 units of alcohol a day and men up to 3 to 4 units a day, without significant risk to their health.? A unit is half a pint of standard strength (3 to 5% ABV) beer, lager or cider, or a pub measure of spirit. A glass of wine is about 2 units and alcopops are about 1.5 units. For good health, it’s a good idea to spread your drinking throughout the week and avoid binge drinking. Drinking heavily over a long period of time can damage the liver.
8. Don’t skip breakfast
Breakfast can help give us the energy we need to face the day, as well as some of the vitamins and minerals we need for good health. Some people skip breakfast because they think it will help them lose weight. But missing meals doesn’t help us lose weight and it isn’t good for us, because we can miss out on essential nutrients. There is some evidence to suggest that eating breakfast can actually help people control their weight. So why not go for a bowl of wholegrain cereal with some low-fat milk and sliced banana and a glass of fruit juice for a healthy start to the day?