In today’s society, there are many different variations of what people perceive to be a ‘healthy’ diet. This is primarily due to an increased number of unqualified individuals advocating for unhealthy fad diets that are currently trending in the media. With so much conflicting information it is understandable why so many people are confused about what constitutes a healthy diet. So I am here to set the record straight. With a Master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, I am a firm believer that a healthy diet should include an abundance of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low fat dairy with the occasional treat. A healthy diet does NOT mean cutting out entire food groups, starving yourself or consuming a range of supplements to meet your nutritional needs. Instead it is about eating real food, because we are real people living in a real world and we need to have a realistic approach to healthy eating.
Many people are surprised to find out that they can significantly improve their diet by making some simple modifications to their existing diet. So here are some practical ideas of things you might want to change in your diet:
Tips to help you reduce your fat intake:
Trim all visible fat from meat cuts prior to cooking.
Substitute red meats (steak, lamb, pork) for white meat alternatives (turkey, chicken, fish)
Swap full fat dairy products for low fat or skim alternatives.
Avoiding frying foods in oil or butter. Instead use healthier cooking methods, such as; baking, boiling, poaching, steaming etc.
Avoid buying processed meats like sausages, salami, bacon etc.
Substitute butter with margarine where possible.
Avoid eating processed snack foods e.g. chips, biscuits, pastries, baked goods, cookies etc. Avoid energy dense foods such as; processed food, fast food, take out, soft drinks and confectionery items.
Read food labels and look for products with less than 2-3g of saturated fat per 100g and less than 10g of total fat per 100g.
Avoid adding salt to meals and purchase products with ‘no added salt’ food labels.
Consume a well-balanced diet with no more than 30% of total energy coming from fat (remaining 50-55% of energy should come from carbohydrates, 15-25% from protein).
Tips to help you increase your fruit and vegetable intake:
Consume at least 5 servings of vegetables.
Consume 2 servings of fruit per day.
Leave skin on fruit and vegetables as this provides a source on insoluble fibre which aids bowel movements.
Swap white breads, cereals, rice, pastas and other grains for wholemeal and wholegrain alternatives (e.g.: brown rice, wholemeal pasta, multigrain bread, wholemeal cous cous etc.)
Increase consumption of nuts, seeds and dried fruits.
Need to increase fluid intake in combination with increased fibre intake (consume at least 2L/day, which is approx. 8-10 cups).
General healthy eating tips:
Decrease your portion sizes to prevent overeating and reduce your daily energy intake. At each of your main meals 50% of your plate should be fruit or vegetables, 25% should be meat or protein alternatives, with the remaining 25% of your plate containing carbohydrates.
Eat slowly to allow ample time for your brain to receive signals of satiety from your stomach.
Do not skip meals – Aim for 3 main meals per day to maintain a consistent metabolism.
Drink a glass of water before dinner, then another one while eating. This water will help you feel fuller quicker and avoid over eating.
Making some of the above changes to your diet can dramatically decrease your risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer. This is primarily due to the fact that your new diet will contain less fat, less energy and more fibre. So make a change today and start fuelling your body with higher quality food products.