Eating a well-balanced diet and maintaining good nutritional habits can help to maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of various diseases. By understanding the nutritional value of the food that you eat and following the correct NHS guidelines to healthy eating it is possible to regulate your diet to lose weight and feel better in yourself.
If you are overweight it is highly recommended that you first consult your GP for the best way to lose weight safely. However, there are several easy and healthy changes you can make to your diet for a healthier lifestyle and to reduce your weight gradually.
While there is no hard and fast rule, the NHS Choices website and NICE guidelines both agree that to lose weight at a sustainable and healthy rate, a person should reduce their calorie intake by 600 calories a day.
Rather than following fad diets or cutting out whole food groups, the healthiest and most sustainable way to do this is to eat a balanced diet and to swap foods high in sugar fat and salt for healthier alternatives.
A balanced diet should consist of foods from all five main food groups. According to the NHS Eatwell Guide, this should include plenty of fruit and vegetables (at least 5 portions a day), a solid base of starchy foods such as potatoes, rice, pasta and bread (ideally of wholegrain varieties), some select non-dairy sources of protein such as meat, fish, beans and eggs, some milk and dairy products and a small amount of foods high in fat and natural sugar.
What foods should I be eating?
Around a third of your diet should be made up of fruits and vegetables, which NHS guidelines state should be at least 5 portions a day. These foods are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals such as folate, vitamin C and potassium, which contribute towards helping the body form and maintain connective tissue, to make DNA and maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Another third of your diet should consist of starchy foods, preferably of the wholegrain variety. It is a common misconception that these foods are bad for us as in reality, gram for gram they contain fewer than half the calories of fat. Far from being bad for us, these foods are integral to maintaining a healthy diet, containing essential fibre, calcium, iron and vitamin B.
Meat is a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc and B vitamins. It is also an essential source of vitamin B12. However, many adults have too much meat in their diets as it is only required in small portions and often of the lean skinless variety. The NHS also recommends aiming to eat at least two portions of fish a week, one being on an oily variety, as this is also an excellent source of protein, which helps the body grow and repair itself, and omega 3 fatty acids.
Milk and dairy foods are also great sources of protein in your diet and contain minerals such as calcium, which helps keeps your bones and teeth strong. However, many dairy foods are high in saturated fat, so you should try to select low fat options where you can.
While some fat and sugar is necessary for a healthy balanced diet, too much can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood which can lead to serious chronic conditions such as heart disease and obesity. To cut down on the saturated fat and sugar in our diets you should read the labels of the foods you consume to make sure that you aren’t having too much.
My Doctor said don’t eat salt
“A good quality organic sea salt is fantastic for the body”, says Tim Allardyce, Clinical Director of Surrey Physio www.surreyphysio.co.uk . “Sea salt contains many trace elements including iodine, zinc, magnesium, bromine, copper, and iron amongst others.” However, sodium chloride table salt is processed and coloured, and of far less nutritional benefit to the body. Salt is important for muscle pains, muscle spasms, restless leg syndrome, and muscle cramping.