The foods that we eat have a big effect on your health and the way we can go about our daily lives – your quality of life. With so much information readily available for what we should and shouldn’t be eating where sometimes a lot of it is contradictory, it’s no wonder we as the general public are left confused. It feels as though one-minute fat is the enemy, then it’s your best friend, sugar has a similar friendship, eggs are on the table, then they are off – help?! Fad diets and celebrity endorsement can often take away the message of the basic nutrition principles and tell us what not to eat and leave us questioning what we should be eating?
Better food choices are established from creating and following simple everyday habits that can lead to an improvement in our calorie control, nutrient timings and food selections. In an ever-growing fitness industry, products like protein shakes are extremely popular and there is a great emphasis on pre and post workout nutrition where often the everyday food choices are forgotten. Your everyday meals are what you eat when you are not exercising (rest days) or for those that don’t exercise regularly it’s your everyday choices / plate.
Eating better can help to boost your health, lower the risk of diseases including heart disease and cancer and can help you to lose weight too. Improving your diet can help you in various aspects of your life from concentrating at work by an improvement in brain function to beating your personal bests in your chosen sports or hobbies by improving your performance.
What foods should we be eating?
In 2016 The EatWell guide was created by Public Health England to be the UK’s healthy eating tool for the general population (previously known as the EatWell Plate). The visual tool is a guide to a healthy diet and shows what we should be eating and drinking in a day and in what proportions to create a healthy, balanced diet with more sustainable food choices (to see the EatWell Guide click here).
Most adults consume more calories than they need. A report published in May 2020 showed that the majority of adults were overweight or obese in the UK: 67% of men and 60% of women, including 26% of men and 29% of women who were obese. The recommendations for daily consumption of food and drink are that on average women should have around 2,000 calories a day and men should have around 2,500 calories a day. So, what should we be eating to achieve this?
The EatWell guide divides the foods and drinks we eat into 5 main food groups and recommends choosing a variety of different foods from each of the groups to help you get the wide range of nutrients your body needs to stay healthy:
- Fruit and vegetables: eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day
- Potatoes, bread rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates: choose whole grain or higher fibre versions with less added fat, salt and sugar
- Oils and spreads: choose unsaturated oils and use in small amounts
- Dairy and alternatives: choose lower fat and lower sugar options
- Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins: eat more beans and pulses, 2 portions of sustainably source fish per week, one of which is oily. Eat less red and processed meat
Try to base your diet around these healthy food groups (the benefits of each food group can be found at Healthline.com):
- Vegetables and Fruits
- Meat and Fish
- Nuts and Seeds
- Healthy Starches
- Beans and Legumes
- Beverages (6-8 glasses of fluid – for more information NHS fluid intake)
- Herbs and Spices
What foods should we be avoiding?
By including more of the foods and drinks that are recommended in your diet you will naturally reduce the foods to be avoided. By choosing whole foods in the lists above it can help to avoid processed foods too. Reduce the amount of foods that are high in saturated fats, sugar and salt. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood and increases the risk of developing heart disease. Too much sugar from regular, overconsumption of foods and drinks that are high in sugar increase the risk of obesity and tooth decay. Eating too much salt from foods or adding it to foods can raise your blood pressure and increase the risk of getting heart disease or having a stroke.
Try to avoid having or reduce the intake these food groups (more information can be found at healthline.com):
- Sugar based products
- Trans fats
- Refined carbs
- Vegetable oils
- Processed low fat products
For more information on what you should be eating when exercising check out our exercise nutrition blog
Article Written by: Jade Mottley
Instagram / Twitter: @Jademottley