Are you eating a healthy and balanced diet?

It is important to eat your five a dayWith people leading such busy and hectic lifestyles, healthy eating can be an afterthought. Fast food and ready meals are often the most convenient choice after a long, hard day at work. However, with obesity on the rise thought it was time to remind ourselves about the sort of meals that we should be eating.

Although fast food and ready meals are quick and convenient, unfortunately they usually have a high salt and fat content and do not provide our bodies with the correct amount of nutrients. It is important to try and eat balanced meals. An easy way to make sure that your meals are balanced is to follow the eatwell plate guidance. The eatwell plate consists of: fruit and vegetables; bread, rice, potatoes and pasta; meat, fish, eggs and beans; milk and dairy foods; as well as food and drinks that are high in fat and/or sugar.

Eatwell plate was created by the Department of Health in association with the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland

Image courtesy of NHS choices

Fruit and vegetables
You should eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Eating a range of different fruit and vegetables will provide your body with a variety of different vitamins and minerals. Fruit and vegetables are also a good source of fibre and antioxidants. They are also generally a low fat and low calorie food source, so eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is the first step towards maintaining a healthy weight and diet.

Potatoes, bread, rice and pasta
It is best to choose wholegrain foods wherever you can and starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta should make up about a third of your diet. Wholegrain varieties of starchy foods are a great source of fibre. Fibre not only helps to keep your bowels healthy, but can also help you feel full, which means that you are likely to eat less.

Meat, fish, eggs and beans
Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals within your diet. Red meat is also a good source of iron. As some meats are high in fat it is important not to eat too much and it is always best to try and choose the leanest cuts possible. Eggs are also a good source of protein, as well as vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin D and iodine. Pulses (including lentils, beans and peas) are a cheap, low-fat source of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. They also count towards your five a day.

Milk and dairy
Milk and dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein. Our body uses calcium to help keep bones strong, while protein helps the body to grow and repair. Milk and dairy products include yoghurt and cheese.

High fat and high sugar foods
High fat and high sugar foods are needed, but only in small amounts. We all need some fat in our diets, but you should eat a small amount of food with a high unsaturated fat content and try and cut out foods with high levels of saturated fat. Unsaturated fat is found in avocados, oily fish, nuts and seeds, and sunflower and olive oils. Although we do need some sugar, most people within the UK already eat too much sugar. You should try and cut down on sugary drinks, cakes, biscuits and adding sugar to drinks. The natural sugar in fruit and in fruit juices is likely to be less harmful.

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