A healthy balanced diet and lifestyle is important, as research shows that some cancers, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and gut diseases are all influenced by diet. So eating a healthy balanced diet can help protect you against disease (don´t forget that smoking and other lifestyle factors such as exercise play a part too).
Eating a healthy diet is all about getting the right balance to provide you with all the nutrients and energy your body needs. The Eat Well Plate (below) shows you the proportion each food group should be contributing to your diet.
The Eat Well plate shows that all foods can be included as part of a healthy diet but it is important to achieve the right balance and variety of foods for good health. Balanced eating is more about weight maintenance than weight loss and is therefore suitable for the whole family.
For most people this means eating a variety of foods from the following:
This group includes all types of bread, cereals, pasta, rice, oats, noodles, cous cous and other grains, potatoes, yams and plantains.
You should try to eat plenty of these foods a day (between 6 and 11 portion) as are they are our main source of carbohydrates- the bodies primary source of energy. As a guide a portion is:
Go for wholegrain rather than refined foods as these are higher in fibre and they release energy more slowly.
This group includes fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruit and vegetables. One glass of pure fruit juice also counts as one portion and some smoothies can contribute two portions. Beans and pulses also provide a portion but only one a day no matter how many you eat!
Your diet should have plenty of fruits and vegetables so aim for at least 5 portions a day (5x80g) a day and don´t forget to eat a rainbow of colour to ensure you get a variety of vitamins and minerals and other nutrients
This group includes meat, meat products e.g. sausages, meatballs etc. , poultry, offal, fish and fish products e.g. fish fingers, fishcakes. It also includes vegetarian protein sources such as eggs, nuts, beans and pulses, soya, tofu and quorn.
Aim for 2 to 3 servings of these daily as these foods provide protein in our diet.
Lean red meat is a good source of minerals such as iron and zinc. Try to eat at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily - oily fish (eg salmon or mackerel) are rich in healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. Beans and lentils are low in fat and contain fibre, iron and B vitamins.
This group includes milk, cheese, yogurt and fromage frais. It doesn´t include butter, eggs and cream. You need 2 to 3 servings a day - and remember reduced fat options are healthier for you as they're lower in saturated fats. This group provides a good source of protein, minerals such as calcium and zinc and vitamins including riboflavin and vitamin B12.
This group includes margarine, butter, fats, oils, oil based salad dressings, mayonnaise, cream, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, pastries, cakes, puddings, ice-cream, rich sauces, soft drinks, sweets, jam and sugar. Treats can be included as part of a healthy diet, but try and keep these to one or two small servings a day as these foods are high in calories. It is best to allow an occasional treat as if you deny yourself of your favourite foods you are likely to over indulge.
Not a food group but important as part of a healthy balanced diet. In adults water compromises at least 60% of our body weight and as water is lost through urine and sweat we need to replace it in the diet. This includes water present in solid foods as well as water as a drink and water present in other drinks. The general recommendation is to drink fluids to the equivalent of 6-8 glasses of water a day. This needs to increase if the weather is particularly hot or after periods of strenuous exercise.
We all know that we should follow a balanced diet but it´s not always obvious what´s good for you and what isn´t. So we´ve made it easier for you, just look out for the Eat well sunflower used across our food ranges to help you follow a balanced diet. Find out more here.
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