Variety is key

Many eating plans focus on limiting or cutting out entire food groups, but they each play an important role in keeping us healthy.

A balanced diet is actually not about ‘cutting out’ in the traditional sense at all. It’s about striking a balance that gets the right nutrients into your body while limiting the foods that can be bad for you when not consumed in moderation.

‘Diets’ tend to be short-term fixes to reach a goal, whereas healthy eating is far more of a lifestyle choice – one that is not so restrictive that you can’t continue to follow it long-term. The World Health Organisation has stressed the importance of a balanced diet, to boost immunity, encourage healthy development and as an ‘important step towards a happy and healthy lifestyle.’

Try to ensure that your diet contains plenty of variety and includes the five major food groups:

GRAINS:

Grains, particularly whole grains, help us to feel full without adding too many calories.

Sources of whole grains:

Barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur wheat, millet, oatmeal, popcorn, whole-wheat bread, past or crackers

PROTEIN:

Protein keeps us feeling full, helps our body to recover after exercise and supplies many nutrients, including B vitamins (niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

Sources of protein:

Meat, poultry, fish, beans and legumes, eggs, milk, yoghurt and cheese, seeds and nuts. Oily fish are an excellent source of Omega-3.

FRUITS

Fruits provide us with many of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can help strengthen our immunity. Different fruits have different health benefits, including:

  • Pineapple, which contains a mixture of enzymes that help us digest protein and have powerfully anti-inflammatory properties
  • Grapefruit, which can lower insulin resistance
  • Blueberries which are high in antioxidants
  • Lemons which promote heart health

Sources of fruits…

As you might expect… fruits! Try to eat a wide range of different colours to get the benefits from as many different nutrients as possible.

VEGETABLES AND LEGUMES

Eating a variety of different coloured vegetables provides you with nutrients such as fibre, folate, potassium and vitamins A and C.

Sources of fibre, vitamins and minerals found in vegetables:

Again as you might expect…vegetables! The advice here is the same – eat a variety to get the greatest benefits.

DAIRY

Dairy is a rich source of calcium, protein and Vitamin D in fortified sources.

Sources of dairy:

Milk, yoghurt, cheese. Look for sources fortified with Vitamin D.

It goes without saying that there are foods that we don’t need. Generally speaking, these are the foods that have been processed or packaged and are not in their natural form. That being said, there are also studies, including one from Medical News Today, to show that the occasional square of chocolate can actually be good for you. The key is in balance. Eat because you are hungry and you want to feed your body with beneficial fuels, not because you are stressed and it’s easy to reach for a chocolate bar or a glass of wine.

Try to consume plenty of foods from the five groups above and you will be well on your way to feeling your best.