Your guide to healthy eating
Healthy eating seems simple and complicated at the same time.
We all know what foods are good for us, like fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, as well as what foods should be limited, like cakes, fried food and processed meat.
However, healthy eating isn’t black and white.
Developing a healthy relationship with food, nourishing your body with what it needs and enjoying food you love in moderation is what healthy eating should be the main focus.
In this article, we will help you get your head around what healthy eating truly means, including:
- What healthy eating is
- Why it’s important
- 9 healthy foods to include in your diet
- 5 healthy food swaps
- 8 healthy eating tips
What is healthy eating?
Healthy eating is not:
- A weight-loss diet
- A temporary fix
- Something we do to punish ourselves after over-indulging
Healthy eating is:
- Fuelling our bodies in the way they were designed
You’ve probably heard the analogy about healthy food being like putting the correct petrol in your car, ensuring it runs properly.
It’s true – your body is like an (incredibly complex) machine that needs the right fuel in order to perform at its best.
A healthy diet includes a balance of:
These are known as macronutrients.
Enough of these, along with enough fibre and fluids, will leave you satisfied.
It’s important to know that you can eat heartily while also eating healthily. You don’t have to eat steamed kale with every meal.
Jacket potatoes, pasta, bread, coffee and even chocolate all have their places in healthy, balanced meals and snacks.
Along with the macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fat – you need micronutrients, too.
These include vitamins and minerals such as:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- B vitamins, including folate1
Macronutrients are ‘macro’ because they make up most of a healthy diet – your daily calories coming from carbohydrates (including beans, legumes and wholegrains), fats and protein.
Micronutrients are ‘micro’ because we need less of them.
- Healthy eating is not about losing weight or something to ‘punish’ ourselves with
- It is about fuelling our bodies correctly with a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals
Why is eating healthy important?
There are plenty of reasons to follow a healthy diet.2 Even better, it doesn’t take long before you start to feel some of the benefits:
- It is an important part of maintaining good health
Eating at least 5 portions of different fruit and vegetables each day and following a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of certain diseases.3
- You’ll have more energy
Certain vitamins and minerals – including B vitamins, iron, and magnesium – have a key role in energy-yielding metabolism.4
Eating a healthy diet ensures you get enough of these nutrients, as well as steady sources of the energy-providing macronutrients like protein, fats and complex carbohydrates – without relying on sugar as a quick energy source.
- It can help you to manage your weight
Following a healthy and balanced diet can help you to manage and control a healthy weight for your height and body type.
- Feel more in control
Grabbing fast food instead of waiting a little longer for home-cooked meal or indulging in a late-night snack because you’re craving sugar at bedtime is fine every now and then, but as a regular habit can make you feel out of control.
An understanding of nutrition and the discipline to eat the foods which nourish your body and mind makes you feel like you’re the boss – not cravings.
- You might feel better as you age
Even if later life seems a long way off, it’s so important to invest in yourself now. Who doesn’t want to stay energetic, fit and well long after you’ve retired?
We might not prioritise calcium in our diets. However, calcium stores in the body are vital to help slow bone loss (osteoporosis) associated with getting older.5
So, if you want to be one of those older people who plays sport, travels the world and keeps up with the grandkids, invest in your diet now.
- Improve your cooking skills
Being able to produce tasty, nutritious food is an invaluable life skill.
Knowing you can knock up a decent dinner or tasty snack with what’s in the cupboard helps stop you from stressing about mealtimes.
Whether you want saving your family money, eat fresher food, learn about ingredients and flavours or simply not having to rely on convenience foods – there’s no downsides to learning to cook, only benefits.
- Good example for family
According to CBeebies, kids who cook develop maths and coordination skills and are more likely to be adventurous eaters.6
Cooking also helps teach healthy eating habits and healthy eating facts, as well as the history and geography of different dishes.