To ensure we have a healthy diet we need to include food from five different food groups.
These five groups are explained in the Eatwell Guide, which also tells you how much of each group you should be eating. The bigger the section the more space it should take up in your diet.
You don’t have to include something from each group in every meal, but you should be aiming to keep your daily diet balanced overall.
The Food Groups
1. Fruit and vegetables
Unsurprisingly fruit and vegetables are a very important part of our diet. Packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, we should be aiming for five portions of these foods every day.
2. Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, and starchy carbohydrates
Carbohydrates include a very wide-ranging number of foods with two groups: simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates, which include white bread, white rice, and pasta, give us a quick release of energy. The body is able to break them down very quickly, increasing our blood sugar levels and making us feel energised. The problem is they don’t make us feel full for long, and soon after, we can experience an energy crash and start craving sugary foods.
Complex carbohydrates on the other hand, work differently. This group includes food such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Our bodies break this type down much more slowly giving us sustained energy levels rather than a boost. That means we starve off cravings for longer and don’t get sluggish after eating.
3. Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, and other proteins
It’s essential to include protein in your diet as it’s used to grow and repair the cells in our bodies. Proteins also have a bunch of essential vitamins and minerals that keep your body functioning properly. Oily fish, such as salmon, is a particularly good choice.
4. Dairy and alternatives
Dairy products can be a great source for vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, but they have a downside too. Often they can contain a lot of fat.
5. Oils and spreads
As you’ll see from the chart above, oils and spreads should take up the smallest place in our diets. This is because of their high fat content.
There are two types of fats: unsaturated and saturated. Saturated fats are considered ‘bad’ and include food such as butter and other animal fats. They include ‘bad cholesterol’, or low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) if you want to get technical.
On the other hand, you’ve got unsaturated fats which are considered ‘good’. You’ll find these in foods like avocados, nuts and olive oil. They contain ‘good cholesterol’ or, for the technical name again, high-density lipoproteins (HDLs). Importantly, they help to clear blockages in the arteries.
A healthy diet isn’t all about food though, there’s drink to consider as well. You won’t be surprised that getting the right amount of water is essential for staying healthy. But how much is the right amount?
We should aim to drink two litres of water per day. That may seem like a lot, but low fat milk and sugar free drinks (including tea and coffee) also count towards the tally.
If you’re a fan of fruit juices and smoothies, you should aim to only have 150ml of them per day. They often contain high levels of sugar, so eating fresh fruit is far better. You get a lot more fibre, vitamins, and minerals this way.