Eating well is important for all of us. In the short-term, it can help us to feel good, look our best and stay at a healthy weight.
In the long-term, a healthy, balanced diet can reduce our risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers. But what exactly is a healthy, balanced diet?
To eat a balanced diet you need to combine several different types of foods - from each of the main food groups - in the right amounts so your body gets all the nutrients it needs while maintaining a healthy weight. In this regard, the food pyramid is used.
The Food Pyramid
The Food Pyramid is designed to make healthy eating easier. Healthy eating is about getting the correct amount of nutrients – protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals you need to maintain good health.
Foods that contain the same type of nutrients are grouped together on each of the shelves of the Food Pyramid. This gives you a choice of different foods from which to choose a healthy diet. Following the Food Pyramid as a guide will help you get the right balance of nutritious foods within your calorie range. Studies show that we take in too many calories from foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt, on the top shelf of the Food Pyramid. They provide very little of the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs. Limiting these is essential for healthy eating.
So in a nutshell, healthy eating involves plenty of vegetables, salad and fruit; a serving of wholemeal cereals and breads, potatoes, pasta and rice at every meal - go for wholegrain varieties wherever possible; some milk, yoghurt and cheese; some meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts; a very small amount of fats, spreads and oils and a very small amount or no foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt.
If you eat a varied and balanced diet, then there is normally no need to take any food supplements – you will get everything you need from your food. The one exception to this is folic acid. All women of child-bearing age who could become pregnant should take a supplement of 400µg (micrograms ) folic acid each day. If a woman does become pregnant, she should continue to take the supplement during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.