Reasons to eat healthily
There are so many reasons to keep your body healthy, and the way you eat often has a direct influence on the way you feel. Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of the essential proteins, vitamins, nutrients, carbohydrates and essential fats is very important in maintaining good health.
It can help control cholesterol, as well going a long way towards avoiding constipation, bad skin and poor hair condition. It has also been proven that a healthy diet can help us to avoid serious conditions such as coronary heart disease, strokes and even some cancers. For example, a diet rich in fibre can reduce the risk of bowel cancer.
The path to general well-being through the aid of a healthy diet doesn’t usually have to mean a complete overhaul in the way that you eat. More often, it is just a few subtle changes in the way that you think and cook that will leave you reaping the rewards in both the short and long term.
‘5 a day’
With the enormous choice and variety available to us today, it’s easier than you might think for you and your family to get all of the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Almost all fruit and vegetables, and even beans and pulses, count towards one of your ‘5 a day’, whether they come fresh, frozen, dried or canned.
One adult-sized portion of fruit or vegetable weighs approximately 80 g (just over 3 oz), or roughly the amount that will fit into the palm of your hand. Even a glass of fruit juice or a smoothie counts, although it’s best not to drink more than one of these each day as the sugars they contain can do damage to your teeth in the long term.
Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables each day really will improve your health. Consuming your ‘5 a day’ can be achieved on any budget, no matter how busy your lifestyle. It just takes a little planning and effort.
GI stands for the Glycaemic Index. Foods containing carbohydrates have an effect on blood sugar levels and can be distinguished by either a high- or lowlevel GI. Foods with a high GI value release sugar into the bloodstream quickly, giving you that familiar ‘sugar rush’.
This rise in blood sugar, however, doesn’t last very long and quickly leaves you feeling tired, hungry and low in energy. Foods with a low GI value, however, release sugar into the bloodstream slowly, supplying a slow, steady source of energy.
This leaves you feeling satisfied for a longer period of time, which in turn results in less snacking throughout the day. The recipes in this site tend to include lots of GI foods, such as wholewheat pasta, beans, pulses, lentils, yogurt, fruits and vegetables.
Starchy foods are an important part of a healthy diet. They include foods such as pasta, rice, cereals and bread and are a vital part of any meal, as they provide a great source of energy and essential nutrients. Try to choose wholegrain and wholemeal varieties of starchy foods, such as wholewheat pasta and couscous, brown rice and wholemeal bread, as they have a low GI value and will keep you feeling satisfied for longer.
Eating plenty of fish will help ensure that your body is getting lots of important vitamins and minerals. We are recommended to eat a minimum of two portions of fish a week, of which at least one should be from an oily fish, which is high in omega-3 fats. Oily fish include tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines. It’s a good idea to try steaming or poaching your fish, in order to retain as many nutrients as possible.
Not all fats are bad. Some are essential when eating a healthy, balanced diet. Our bodies cannot provide us with all the essential fatty acids that we need to stay healthy, so it is important to include them in our diets. Extra virgin olive and rapeseed oils are a great source of unsaturated fats, which are also found naturally in oily fish, nuts and seeds.
It is recommended to avoid eating too many saturated fats, as there are fears that they could increase the risk of high
cholesterol and coronary heart disease.
Salt and Sugar
Salt and sugar are two foods that it is advisable to cut back on. To reduce the risk of getting high blood pressure, and therefore reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease, it is important not to eat too much salt. Try flavouring food with herbs, spices and lemon juice, and always taste your food before automatically adding salt.
Added sugar is an ingredient that our bodies can do without. Try instead to get sweetness from foods that have naturally occurring sugars in them, such as fruit, and if you do need to add sugar, try to use the least refined sorts possible. Palm sugar and agave nectar are less processed alternatives.
Fibre is a vital part of a healthy diet if you want to avoid constipation, bowel cancer and various other digestive problems. As well the more obvious foods, such as breads, pasta, rice and potatoes, fruit and vegetables also have lots of natural dietary fibre. To boost your intake, try adding a portion of raw vegetable salad or a handful of crushed whole nuts to your meal.
Protein and Dairy
Protein is essential for the repair and growth of our bodies. As well as lean meat and fish, try to include eggs, beans and pulses in your diet – all are great sources of protein. Dairy produce is also a good source of protein as well as calcium, essential for keeping our bones healthy. Try drinking skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, which contains the same amount of calcium as full-fat milk, but less saturated fats
Some Healthy Cooking Methods
- Steaming is a gentle way to cook vegetables, fish and lean cuts of meat, ensuring a great texture while locking the nutrients in. Whether you want to cook with a fancy electric steamer, a simple steamer basket or an Asian-style bamboo steamer, this is one of the healthiest forms of cooking.
- Poaching in liquid is also a great way of cooking fish and meat while keeping it tender and moist. It’s a really versatile way of cooking, and the combinations of flavours you can use when poaching are endless.
- Grilling or griddling is a healthy form of cooking fattier cuts of meat, as it allows the fat to melt away from the meat and run off, leaving you with a delicious grilled taste, but without the excess fat. Using a heavy, ridged griddle pan is also a great way to cook vegetables, such as strips of aubergine and courgette, without having to add extra oil while cooking.
- Stir-frying is a really healthy way of cooking food quickly while retaining texture, taste and nutrients. You only need to use small amounts of oil in a well-seasoned wok or large frying pan over a very high heat. Stir-frying is the ultimate healthy way of cooking ‘fast food’.
- Slow cooking, either in a slow cooker designed especially for the purpose, or in a casserole in the oven or on the hob, is a perfect way of cooking some of the tougher cuts of meat, without compromising on taste. The long, slow gentle cooking allows the flavours to really develop while giving the meat really drop-off-the-bone tenderness. You can then skim any excess fat from the top of the dish when it has finished cooking.
Tips for Healthy Eating
- Do invest in a really good, nonstick frying pan. It will drastically reduce the amount of oil you will need to cook with.
- Don’t skip breakfast! Eating breakfast in the morning is a chance to refuel your body and get your metabolism going. This is essential if you want to keep your energy levels high while avoiding the trap of snacking throughout the morning.
- Do try using an olive oil spray to grease your pans and tins. It is an easier way to control how much oil you use, both for cooking and on salads.
- Don’t do diets that are going to make your weight ‘yo-yo’. Rapid weight loss can be more damaging to your health, and weight is much more likely to go back on once the diet is finished. It is much healthier for both body and mind to make some simple changes to the way that you cook and eat. If you eat healthily and exercise sensibly, you will be much more likely to reach your goal weight and stick to it.
- Do replace high sugar or salty snacks with more natural alternatives. Eaten in moderation, nuts, seeds and dried fruits are much healthier snacks and likely to satisfy any cravings. Try cutting up raw vegetables into batons and serving with fat-free Greek yogurt mixed with fresh herbs and lemon juice for a totally guilt-free evening snack.
- Don’t over-season your food with salt or sugar during cooking; if you do, it cannot be removed. Instead, season lightly during the cooking process and encourage your family to add a squeeze of lemon juice or some extra
spices to replace any extra salt, which is bad for your health in large quantities.
- Do exercise! We are recommended to do at least 30 minutes of exercise each day in order to stay fit and healthy. Low-impact activities, such as walking, yoga, aerobics and swimming, are all great ways to introduce a
little exercise into your life without risking damage to joints.