What does ‘healthy eating’ actually mean? To begin with, it’s important to understand that healthy eating is different from dieting. It doesn’t aim to reduce a significant amount of weight in a short space of time, instead it aims to make you feel great, energised and above all, healthier.
Healthy eating incorporates three main ideas:
- eating a balanced diet
- having a healthy attitude towards food
- understanding the environmental impact of your diet.
The following fact-sheet provides a wealth of information for kick-starting a positive eating regime. Consulting a nutritionist will ensure that this lifestyle change is safe, right for your personal needs, easy to maintain, and enjoyable.
Please remember that all the healthy eating advice given below is for general use, and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice given by a professional.
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Eating healthily and dieting
‘Dieting’ is a term used to describe the process of cutting down or cutting out certain food groups, typically to aid rapid weight-loss, whereas healthy eating promotes the long-term aim of maintaining a well balanced diet.
Diets aren’t necessarily a healthy option – they can lead to dramatic weight-loss, but because they are only short-term fixes, weight often creeps back on after the diet is finished. Also, some fad diets have zero scientific proof that they work and can make you feel unwell.
Avoiding fad diets
Weight-loss diets often promise to help you lose weight in a short space of time but can be damaging for your health. Here are some reasons why you should try to avoid these ‘fad diets’ and start eating a balanced diet.
Some diets can make you feel unwell
Crash diets often portray weight-loss as a quick, achievable process by considerably reducing the amount of calories you consume. Due to these diets being unbalanced, you might start feeling ill and in some cases it may lead to long-term health issues.
Excluding certain food types can be dangerous
Some diets cut out certain food groups altogether such as dairy products, fish, wheat or meat. This can prevent you from gaining certain nutrients that help your body function properly.
If you suspect you have an allergy or intolerance to a certain food group, consult a doctor/dietitian for an official diagnosis.
Detox diets might not work
Detox diets often lead to weight-loss because they cut out certain food types, such as dairy products or wheat, and focus on eating a restricted range of foods. These types of diets are not healthy for the long-term because they restrict your nutrient intake, so you may miss out on essential vitamins and minerals, which can be detrimental to your health.
You might lose weight quickly with a fad diet, but it’s much better health-wise to lose weight gradually by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Healthy eating tips
The NHS has supplied a number of healthy eating tips. They include:
Base meals on starchy foods
According to the NHS, you should aim for starchy foods to make up 30% of your meals. Starchy foods include pasta, potatoes, bread and cereal. Whole grain varieties of starchy foods offer more fibre and can help you feel fuller for longer. The fibre in whole grains also helps feed the health-promoting bacteria in your gut and may help prevent constipation and bloating. Whole grains also benefit from having more vitamins and minerals in them which are vital for energy production and overall good health.
Eat plenty of fish
Fish is a great source of protein and contains essential vitamins and minerals. It’s been advised to eat it twice a week, with at least one portion being oily fish such as fresh salmon or mackerel. These types of fish are rich in omega-3 fats that can be very beneficial to your health.
Get your five a day
You should aim to eat at least five different varieties of fruit and vegetables a day. This is much easier than you think. To start, try swapping your mid-morning biscuit for a banana and palmful of nuts and snacking on hummus with carrot/cucumber batons in the evening - it’s easier than you think! Take a look at our five a day fact sheet for more tips.
Cut down on sugar and saturated fats
We do need a certain amount of fat in our diet, but we should keep an eye on how much we are consuming and the type of fats we are eating. As well as consuming a small amount of saturated fat, found in meat and dairy, it is also important to consume unsaturated fats in foods such as avocados, oily fish and vegetable oils to make sure you are eating a mix of fats necessary for good health. When consuming meat, try to get the lean cuts and remove any visible fat. When cooking, try steaming or stir-frying your vegetables quickly with a smaller amount of oil to retain more of the goodness. Making stews with meat, in addition to grilling meats, is also a healthy option, as you do not burn the fats in a casserole.
A large portion of the UK consumes far too much sugar. This can lead to an increase in weight, diabetes and tooth decay. Sugary breakfasts, alcoholic drinks, biscuits, cakes and pastries should be limited and replaced mostly by healthy options like fresh fruit and water.
Avoid too much salt
Approximately three-quarters of the salt we eat is in the food we buy from the supermarket. As well as reducing the amount of salt you add to your meals at the table, you should also consider the amount of salt already added to pre-packaged foods like bread, soups and sauces. Too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which can lead to a stroke or developing heart disease.
Explore eating for good health
Many experts believe that eating a healthy, balanced diet, can help you live a longer, healthier, happier life. What we choose to eat can often affect how we look and how we feel.
Discover more about healthy eating and how it can benefit you:
Balanced diet - What nutrients do we need? How do these nutrients affect our body and health?
Healthy hair - Can our diets change the health of our hair?
Mental health - What effect does the food we eat have on mental health?
Healthy teeth - What do we need to eat to prevent tooth decay?
Eco-nutrition - How can we provide a stable future for our children and ourselves by eating more responsibly?
Healthy eating advice
With so many conflicting resources telling you what and when to eat, you might be overwhelmed with the choice of diets and information on how to eat healthily. If this sounds like you, a nutritionist may be able to help you sort through what applies to you and help you achieve your goals.
A nutritionist can give you plenty of healthy eating advice, helping you implement a well balanced eating plan that's tailored to your needs. These changes can help boost your mood, improve your overall health and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Content reviewed by registered nutritionist, Melody Mackeown. All content displayed on Nutritionist Resource is provided for general information purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for advice given by your GP or any other healthcare professional.
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