Making the best dietary choices
In other sections, we look at why our bodies need food and how it is digested and used, and discuss the different types of nutrients that are needed in the diet - carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Here, we turn to the foods that supply these essential nutrients and the food groups from which they should be selected.
The main food groups
During the 1990s, the government developed a National Food Guide - which is called The Balance of Good Health - to encourage the consumption of a nutritionally balanced diet and also to simplify meal planning. This has since been modified to become The eatwell plate
The eatwell plate classifies foods into five groups. The four main groups are starchy foods such as grains, pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes (see Wholesome Grains); fruits and vegetables; milk and dairy foods; and protein foods such as poultry, fish, meat, eggs, pulses, and nuts (see Healthy Protein Sources).
The fifth group includes foods that contain fat and sugar. Eating a lot of fatty food is a major cause of weight and health problems, and sugary foods provide calories but few useful nutrients. So the recommendations are that these foods be eaten sparingly.
The need for water
Fluids are also a vital element of every diet: a man's body is about 60 per cent water and a woman's about 50 per cent, and every cell needs water to function properly. To remain healthy, you need to drink at least six to eight large glasses of fluids, preferably water, every day, and more when it is hot or when you are perspiring, such as during exercise (see Tips for drinking more water).
In recent years, scientists have extended their understanding of the link between nutrition and health: it is now clear that eating particular foods contributes to good health and prevents disease. Thousands of potentially beneficial compounds in foods have now been identified, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, and phytochemicals. The list of foods that may help protect your health continues to grow - from many different vegetables and fruits to red wine, linseeds, and oily fish.
Making good choices
Any food can fit into a healthy way of eating. The key is to balance your choices over time so that your overall diet is sound. You can continue to eat your favourite foods, even if they are high in fat, salt, or sugars, but try to reduce your portion sizes.
- Eating choices: what is a serving?
- Dietary guidelines
- 10 Nutrition resolutions
- Balancing dietary needs and eating pleasure
- Ramadan: spiritual fasting and feasting
- Choosing Ready Meals
- Working lunch: Healthy eating in the office
- Benefits of North African cuisine
- Diet dilemmas: Is raw food really better for you?
- The truth behind health food
- Three meals a day!
- Your guide to healthy eating
- Understanding chrononutrition: 7 key facts about the chrono diet
- How to get a healthy balanced breakfast
- Can you change your eating habits?
- 5 ways to get your 5 a day
- What women eat
- Gluten-free diet: More than just a fad
- Brain food: What to eat during exam time
- How to reduce salt in your diet
- The proven benefits of probiotics
- January detox: Kick start your system
- A guide to organic shopping
- How to replace sugar in your diet
- Why honey is good for you
- Cooking tips for better digestion
- The Cretan diet
- Boost your brain cells with iron
- How to boost your IQ through your diet
- Comfort food: Healthy ways to boost your morale!
- A healthy diet
- 8 Key aspects of the Viking diet
- 10 naturally slimming foods
Get more on this subject…