It's really important to eat healthily, we all know that, but which foods are good for us and how many of them should we eat each day?
A little food for thought
When it comes to nutrition, variety really is the spice of life. To stay in tip top condition our bodies need a healthy, balanced diet. The key to this is variety, and all our meals should contain a good mix of different foods and nutrients.
What are the five different food groups?
- Fruit and vegetables
- Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods
- Milk and dairy foods
- Meat, fish, eggs, and pulses
- Foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar
Eat your greens
It turns out that mum really did know best when she told you to eat your greens. Although perhaps what she really should have said is ‘eat your greens, reds, yellows and oranges'.
Fruit and veg are great sources of vitamins, minerals and fibres, they're all naturally low in fat, and they taste great too. Remember, we should eat at least five portions a day (a portion is 80g, or about a handful) so tuck in.
Fresh, frozen, dried, juiced or even tinned - it all counts towards your 5-a-day. Just make sure you get a lot of variety and you eat a good mix of fruits and vegetables. Look out for the handy 5-a-day icon on Asda's own label foods.
Top tip: Eat lots of different types. A good mix of fruits and veg will give you more benefits than five glasses of juiced fruit.
Need an energy boost?
Starchy foods are high in energy and are your fuel for the day. To keep your energy levels high, try to make these a third of your daily diet.
The good news is you've got lots of tasty options to choose from. Bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, wholegrain cereals, beans, lentils, couscous and maize are all on this list. Naturally, wholegrain and wholemeal varieties are better for you; they contain more nutrients and keep you feeling fuller longer than white varieties, so go for them if you can.
These tasty foods are also high in fibre, and we all know that's good news. But did you know that there are actually two different types of fibre? Insoluble fibre helps to keep bowels healthy and stops constipation, and you'll get this from wholegrain cereals and bread, plus fruits and vegetables. Soluble fibre could help reduce your cholesterol levels and you'll find this in oats, beans and lentils.
Top tip: By having variety in your diet, you'll get both types of fibre.
Isn't milk great!
Most people know about the 5-a-day rule, but what about the 3-a-day rule? You should aim to eat or drink three portions of dairy products in your daily diet. Cheeses, yoghurts and fromage frais are great sources of protein, vitamins and calcium, so they're good for you.
Before you rush to the fridge, here's a little word of warning. Dairy products are high in saturated fats, which can be bad for your heart. To stay healthy, stick to semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, and low-fat yoghurts and fromage frais. Remember that cheese can be high in salt and flavoured milk products often contain sugar, so check packs for those with lower amounts.
Top tip: Look out for the 3-a-day icon on Asda's own dairy products.
Omega 3 fatty acids can help prevent heart disease and oily fish such as sardines, herring, mackerel, trout and salmon are all a rich source.
These fatty acids are important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding because they help a baby's nervous system to develop.
Now for a small word of warning: some oily fish does contain small amounts of pollutants, but if you stick to the recommended maximum of two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily, the benefits outweigh the risks. Don't forget white fish, it contains useful nutrients.
Top tip: Asda's own label foods have a 2-a-week icon that shows when a product contains a portion of fish.
A little bit of what you fancy
Last, but not least, there are foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar. Don't panic - you don't need to steer clear of them completely!
If you're partial to fizzy drinks, biscuits and sweets, try to remember that they are high in calories but low in other nutrients. Foods and drinks with added sugar can lead to tooth decay and weight gain if you indulge too often so they're best kept as an occasional treat.
Fat is often given a bad rap but it's actually an essential part of our diet. However, processed and ready-made foods often contain ‘hidden fat', meaning you might be eating more fat than you realise. Nutritional traffic lights can help you spot the dangers.
Keep an eye out for different types of fat, too. Saturated fats and trans fats (if the ingredients list says ‘hydrogenated vegetable oil' it may contain trans fats) play a part in the development of heart disease. Unsaturated fats are better for you and your heart - they're in olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils, nuts and seeds, oily fish and avocados.
Remember, because different types of food contain different nutrients the key to a healthy balanced diet is variety. These Quick Tips should help you think about the foods you eat each day and keep you healthy.
- Consider what you eat over a whole day rather than at each meal.
- Look at the food in your cupboards and fridge - which food groups does it fall into?
- Fruit & vegetables, bread, cereals, potatoes, pasta & rice should make up around two-thirds of what you eat.
- The last third is split between meat, fish and alternatives (such as eggs, beans & pulses) and milk & dairy foods.
- The smallest section is reserved for fatty or sugary foods and drinks (don't avoid these completely but enjoy them as occasional treats).
For more information on how to eat healthily why not listen to our 'making healthy choices' podcast. Simply click on the link above or visit the podcast section of our website.