How can I achieve a healthy diet?5-a-day. Consume at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, which includes fresh, frozen, dried, and canned goods. Try to include a variety of different types and colours of fruit and vegetables to get a range of different vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants. Antioxidants serve to protect our bodies from damage caused by free radicals.
Starchy carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are our bodies main energy source. Include one portion of this food group for each meal and opt for wholegrains varieties where possible. Examples include breakfast cereals, chapattis, potatoes, oats, and rice etc.
Dietary fibre. Fibre keeps the colon healthy. It is found in whole grains, pulses (i.e. beans, lentils, peas), nuts & seeds, fruit and vegetables.
Protein. Protein builds, repairs, and maintains tissues. Consume plant-based and lean proteins (i.e. beans, lentils, poultry, and fish etc.). Try not to eat more than one portion of red meat a day and try to limit processed meat consumption (i.e. sausages, bacon, ham etc.).
Oily fish. Oily fish is a rich source of omega-3 which is an essential fatty acid (our bodies can’t produce it, so we need to consume it through diet). Try to include two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily (i.e. mackerel, kippers, salmon etc.). If you are vegetarian or vegan there are other sources of omega-3 found in foods such as walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and vegetable oils etc.
Dairy and alternatives. Dairy provides a rich source of calcium which promotes bone health. Try to consume three portions a day. One portion size is a matchbox size of cheese, a small pot of yoghurt or a 1/3 pint of milk.
Oil & spreads. Saturated fat raises the ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood, whereas unsaturated fat increases the ‘good’ cholesterol. Try to reduce your saturated fat intake (from butter, coconut oil, ghee, pastries, and biscuits etc.). Opt for unsaturated oils and spreads instead (i.e. olive oil, rapeseed oil etc.). These should all be consumed in small amounts.
High fat, high sugar, and high salt. High fat, sugar, and salt foods should be consumed less often and in small amounts. They can still be included as part of a healthy diet, but the key is to consume in moderation.
Fluids. Drink 6 – 8 cups of fluid a day and more often when exercising. Fluids include water, lower-fat milk, low sugar and sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee.
Supporting my immune system. There is no evidence to suggest that you can “boost” your immune system beyond its normal levels. To support the normal function of your immune system it is encouraged to consume a well-balanced diet.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine” vitamin, supports bone and teeth health. Currently, as we are not allowed out more than once a day, many of us will not be getting enough exposure to the sun to generate enough vitamin D. Although there are good food sources of vitamin D, it is not adequate enough to reach the recommendations. Therefore, it is advised to take a vitamin D supplement of 10mcg every day.
Applying healthy eating to your lifestyle
Plan ahead. Plan your meals out ahead of time so that you can ensure you are having a well-balanced diet.
Add extra. Try adding extra vegetables to cooked dishes, such as carrots and courgettes to stews and Bolognese’s etc. Also, try including a side salad with evening meals or at lunchtime.
Go meat-free. Having meat-free meals encourages you to consume a plant-based protein alternative, such as beans or lentils. This swap boosts the fibre content and counts towards one of your 5-a-day.
What should I avoid?
False claims. Avoid purchasing any foods and supplements which claim to boost your immune system and protect you from COVID-19 (it is a waste of money!). The best way to reduce your risk is to follow the government guidance of socially distancing and following good hygiene practices.
Feeling guilty for overindulging. This is a difficult and emotional time for us all. It is not unusual for our eating patterns to change during stressful times. So do not feel guilty or ashamed because of this!