The definition of Healthy Eating, ingrained in us from an early age, is often simply “eat your greens otherwise you won’t grow up to be big and strong”! But now we’re all a bit older (and hopefully wiser), shouldn’t we have a better understanding of healthy eating? London Doctors Clinic gives you the facts on a healthy diet:
Healthy eating comes down to two core concepts:
1. The correct number of calories
2. A balance over the food groups
Eating the correct number of calories is a great form of weight management that will hopefully prevent those muffin tops and love handles, while balancing the food groups appropriately will result in a healthier, more energised you!
Men, on average, are required to eat close to 2500 calories per day, whereas women only require 2000 calories. While two people can eat the same number of calories per day, if they eat very different food groups, they will receive very different nutritional level.
A simplified view of healthy eating: certain branding and the media tell children that eating their greens will make them big, strong and tall!
Fruit and Vegetables
After years of posters, TV infomercials and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, most of us know that we should eat at least 5 portions of fruit of veg a day. However, when we say a portion, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to eat a piece of fruit of veg – a portion can come in the form of a small glass of fruit juice with your breakfast, or chopped veggies cooked in your spaghetti bolognese!
New guidance advises that we should be consuming at least two portions of fish a week.
This is because fish is a healthy protein; often it is lower in fat than the equivalent protein portion of beef or lamb. It contains a large number of essential vitamins and minerals, and if you consume oil fish, such as mackerel or salmon, it is high in Omega 3. Omega 3 is an essential fat that has been shown to have positive effects in reducing heart disease.
It is worth noting, however, that processed fish, such as tinned tuna, is often high in salt. It is important to avoid processed forms of food, where possible!
How much is too much? Although a little bit of salt is okay, it is advised that adults eat no more than 6g of salt a day. This is because too much salt has been shown to raise blood pressure, which can lead to the development of heart disease. Even if you don’t add salt to food, it can naturally contain some (this can be the case even if food does not taste salty!).
Commonly, processed foods are high in salt. If you are unsure, check the food labels.
Another substance beginning with “S” that needs to be maintained at an appropriate level is sugar! Sugar is high in short release energy; but it will not sustain you throughout the day. As well as this, sugar increases your risk of obesity and tooth decay.
While sugar is high in short release energy, it will not sustain you throughout the day
Many packaged foods contain high amounts of sugar – for example, recent research has shown that a large number of savoury processed sauces that are added to pasta are rich in sugar. Therefore, it is not merely desserts, fizzy drinks and sweets that need to be monitored, but savoury dishes too.
Another place where there is a large amount of sugar is in alcoholic drinks! Often, alcoholic drinks do not give you in depth product details on the side of packs (in the same way that food products do), so it can be easy to forget about the sugar!
A common misconception when thinking about a healthy diet is that fat is bad for you; however, this is not true! Fat is an essential part of a diet and the body uses it for basic cellular processes. It is, however, important to pay attention to the type of fat.
The two main types of fat that are available are:
- Saturated fats
- Unsaturated fats
Saturated fat is the bad type of fat; if consumed in too higher concentration it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and increased risk of a stroke. It does this through raising your cholesterol – those with high LDL levels (a form of bad cholesterol) are more likely to develop heart disease later in life if no changes are made.
Food substances that should be avoided due to being high in saturated fats include processed meats, hard cheeses, creams and biscuits. This does not mean you cannot eat these food types, but it would be better to put the lid on the biscuit tin after just one!
When you begin thinking about your diet, you should take into account all of the different nutrient components that have been discussed. Begin basing your meal using a starchy carbohydrate. Starch-rich carbohydrate meals give you a long release form of energy; they should make up around 1/3 of all the food you eat. Lots of starchy food can be made healthier by choosing the wholegrain option. Wholegrain provides a greater amount of fibre can make you feel satiety for longer periods of time.
Drink, drink, drink! A final component of eating healthily is staying hydrated! A large number of people will eat because they think they are hungry when, in fact, they are merely thirsty. You should aim to drink 2 litres of non-alcoholic liquid day; fizzy drinks do count in these 2 litres, however due to their high sugar content they, should be consumed in moderation.
Water is the unsung hero of the healthy diet: do you drink enough of it?
LDC’s Healthy Eating Checklist
- Everything in moderation (as with everything in life!)
- Maintain a balanced diet
- Ensure to eat a wide variety of foods – after all, variety is the spice of life!
- Read the labels
- Keep active
- Stay hydrated – aim for two litres of fluid a day!
If you need any additional advice on nutrition or healthy eating, why not book in for a consultation with a private GP at any of our private clinics. With 8 locations around central London, we should never be too far away when you are in search of a “GP near me“!
By George Wall