Eating a balanced diet is fundamental to maintain good health and optimize wellbeing. It is established that a healthy diet requires consuming an adequate amount of food and drink, including diverse nutrients in the right proportions. Although the importance of a balanced diet is acknowledged in the population, an increasing number of individuals experience nutrition-related health problems that may have significant implications for individuals and society. Thus, it is crucial to provide evidence-based guidelines to promote healthy eating habits in the population.
Food Groups in Your Diet:
The Eatwell Guide is an evidence-based tool used to help people achieve and maintain a healthy diet. It outlines that a balanced diet should comprise at least five portions of fruits and vegetables, starchy foods, dairy or dairy alternatives, beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, and other proteins. It is advisable to use unsaturated oils and spreads in small amounts and limit the intake of food and drinks high in fat, sugar, and salt. Although following these recommendations is necessary to maintain health, many individuals fail to comply, leading to inadequate nutrient intake and increased risk of diseases.
Fruit and Vegetables: Are You Getting Your 5 A Day?
Fruits and vegetables provide a substantial amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals necessary for optimal health. Current recommendations advise the consumption of at least five portions of fruits and vegetables each day to reduce the risk of several chronic diseases. Eating a portion of fruit or vegetables is easier than most individuals think. Examples of one portion of fruit or vegetable include 80g of fresh, canned, or frozen fruits or vegetables, 30g of dried fruit, or 150ml of fruit juice or smoothie, among others. Increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables may also improve dietary diversity and, thus, the overall nutrient intake.
Starchy Foods in Your Diet:
Starchy foods should make up over one-third of the food consumed daily, according to the Eatwell Guide. The guide advises choosing whole-grain or wholemeal varieties of starchy foods, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and higher fiber bread, which contain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than white varieties. Potatoes with the skins on provide an excellent source of fiber and vitamins, among others.
Milk and Dairy Foods (and Alternatives):
Milk and dairy products are rich in protein and calcium, essential for bone health. Low-fat and low-sugar products, such as semi-skimmed, 1% fat, or skimmed milk, lower-fat hard cheese, or cottage cheese, and low-fat, low-sugar yogurts, are recommended. Individuals who choose dairy alternatives should opt for calcium-fortified and unsweetened versions.
Eating a balanced diet is crucial for maintaining good health and preventing nutrition-related health problems. The Eatwell Guide provides evidence-based recommendations to achieve a healthy and balanced diet, but compliance remains a challenge. Efforts should be made to promote healthy eating habits and increase the availability and affordability of healthy foods to improve dietary diversity and promote overall health.