Plan your meals
You probably know if you’re eating too much for your level of physical activity. So if you’re regularly overindulging, then start planning what meals you will have each week, including when to treat yourself. This will help you avoid taking the easier unhealthy options or any last minute takeaway temptation. Make a shopping list for your meal plan and make sure you have regular meals.
Get the right balance
A balanced diet is made up of:
- a third fruit and vegetables;
- a third starchy food (pasta, bread, potatoes, rice); and
- the remaining third of meat/fish/nuts,milk/dairy,and fats/sugars.
Take a look at the Food Standards Agency’s Eat Well Plate (external link) which shows these proportions.
Base your meals on starchy foods, then add fruit and/or vegetables. For instance, if you’re having pasta, add plenty of vegetables such mushrooms, onions and peppers together with a small amount of meat or alternative.
Have your 5-a-day
Eat as wide a variety of fruit and vegetables as you can but aim to have at least five different portions a day. A portion is about the size of a medium-sized apple. Beans, orange juice and tinned vegetables all count towards your 5-a-day. If you had some orange juice with breakfast, two portions of vegetables with lunch (for example carrots and peas), then had some mushrooms and onions in your pasta dinner – you’re there! Fruit deserts or snacks are other easy ways to make it to 5-a-day.
Reduce the fat
Avoid eating food with high levels of fat, particularly saturated fat. You can reduce your fat consumption by switching to low-fat varieties, using as little butter on bread as you can, trimming visible fat from meat. Use small amounts of sunflower or olive oil in your cooking.
Avoid the sugary stuff!
Try regular healthy snacks, such as fruit and drinking more water, or low calorie drinks. Eating regular meals, particularly breakfast, will help you avoid snacking in between meals.
Cook it in the grill
Oven cooking, grilling and microwaving are far healthier ways to cook food. Try grilling those low fat sausages or bacon, add a grilled tomato and mushrooms (part of your 5-a-day), and finally some scrambled egg and a piece of brown toast.
Forget the salt
People should eat no more than 6 grams of salt a day, this is only a teaspoon. Most of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy. Get out of the habit of adding salt, and over time your taste buds will become used to food without it. In fact, it’s better to taste how good your food actually is!
Check the label
Look out for the Food Standards Agency’s traffic light food labels. The red, amber and green symbols show whether the food is high in salt, sugar and fat. Go for foods that have more green and avoid the foods that have lots of red or amber levels. If the food doesn’t use the traffic light system, then take a look at the packet and per 100 grams avoid foods that have more than:
- 15 grams of sugar
- 20 grams of fat
- 5 grams of saturated fat
- 0.6 grams of sodium or 1.5 grams of salt.
Drink plenty of water
Try and drink six to eight glasses a day, that’s two litres or 3.5 pints. Hot drinks, juices and milk all count but alcohol will actually dehydrate you. Try to limit the amount of alcohol you drink; men can safely have 3-4 units a day and women 2-3. It’s also important to have at least one alcohol-free day a week, and if you’re pregnant it’s better not to drink at all.
Don’t expect to turn the tide right away, or even in one or two months. You’re aiming to be healthy for life, so think beyond next week’s weigh-in! Slowly develop better, healthier eating habits. Build on each success, so if you’ve successfully cut out adding salt, then it’s time to move onto planning your meals each week. If you have children, they’ll learn their eating habits from you, so it’s important to show them how important it is to eat healthily.
The Food Standards Agency Wales have developed a number of interactive activities on their Eatwell website. These include quizzes, games and calculators to help you make sense of a healthy lifestyle.
For more information visit: www.eatwell.gov.uk (external link)
Related external links
Big Fat Problem - www.bbc.co.uk/bigfatproblem (English only)
British Nutrition Foundation - www.nutrition.org.uk (English only)
British Heart Foundation - www.bhf.org.uk (English only)
British Dietetic Association - www.bdaweightwise.com (English only)