A balanced diet
Healthy eating means getting a wide variety of the right foods into your diet. A balanced diet is not rigid or miserable, and has room in it for the occasional treat.
What nutrients do you need?
To keep running smoothly, your body needs:
- Carbohydrates (sugars and starchy food), for energy
- Proteins, for building muscle etc
- Fats, for energy and making cell walls, etc
- Fibre, to keep the gut healthy
- Vitamins and minerals, for a wide range of functions
- Water, to flush out the waste products of your metabolism
Getting the balance right
- Eat regular meals based on carbohydrate in the form of unrefined starchy foods. This means potatoes in their skins, rice, bread and pasta. The wholemeal versions are the best as they are thought to contain more vitamins and release their energy more steadily, as well as containing fibre.
- Refined sugary food can cause tooth decay and cause fluctuations in blood glucose levels. Sugar is 'empty calories' and contains only energy without other nutrients (the same goes for alcohol).
- Protein is needed in moderate amounts - eat a fist-sized portion at every meal. Go for lean meats, poultry, eggs, fish, beans, lower-fat cheeses, semi-skimmed milk, yoghurts, or soya products.
- Fats are essential to health in small amounts. You need roughly equal amounts of saturates (e.g. butter), monounsaturates (e.g. olive oil) and polyunsaturates (e.g. sunflower oil). Try to avoid hardened vegetable oils as they usually contain trans fatty acids that are unhealthy forms of fat.
- Vitamins and minerals are best obtained from eating a wide variety of foods. The ones in the tablets (and added to fortified cereals etc) are often not in the same natural forms that are found in food, and may not be absorbed as effectively. Try to eat at least five portions of different kinds of fruit or veg every day to stay in top condition.
- Eat breakfast and don't skip meals. You'll be more alert and your metabolism will be better. People who eat breakfast regularly are more likely to be slim than people who skip it.
- Combine a balanced diet with regular moderate exercise to feel and look your best.
- Make friends with food, it isn't the enemy. It's there to be enjoyed. If you eat something unhealthy, try not to feel guilty, just aim to eat more healthily the next day.
If you stick to these guidelines most of the time, it will be fine if you occasionally eat small amounts of sweet foods and fried foods.
Do you really need to lose weight?
You need to look up your body mass index (BMI), which is a formula that takes into account both your height and your weight. It will give you a healthy range of weights, there isn't a single correct weight to be for your height. Go to your doctor to be weighed and measured, and ask her or him for some medical advice about weight loss. The bathroom scales at home are not accurate enough to give you an exact reading of how much you weigh.
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