Scarlet Hollands from JDP Fitness gives you all you need to know on the “Balanced Diet”
What is the Balanced Diet?
The term “a balanced diet” is something that is used often but do we really understand what is meant by the “balance” part of the diet? There are definitely many questions that are thrown around in regards to what a balanced diet should be or consist of, “When are the best times to eat carbs, protein and fat?” “What are the correct portion sizes?” and “What is the guideline daily amount?” to name a few.
A healthy diet doesn’t mean surviving solely on bird seed, rabbit food and a carrot juice! The new approach to eating healthily means we’re positively encouraged to eat a wide range of foods, including some of our favourites – it’s just a question of making sure we get the balance right.
No single food provides all the calories and nutrients we need to stay healthy so it’s important to eat a variety of foods to make a balanced diet. Most nutrition experts also agree that food should be a pleasure rather than a penance. This means it’s ok to eat small amounts of our favourite foods from time to time. The is called “BALANCE”
Reference Intake (RI) – the new term for Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs):
Nutritional needs vary depending on your sex, size, age and activity levels. The chart shows the daily amounts recommended for a healthy, balanced diet for maintaining rather than losing or gaining weight. This is simply a guide, an individual’s own personal GDA will also vary depending on more detailed information like BMR (basal metabolic rate) TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) etc, but this guideline gives you a good idea as to how much of each nutrient we should be consuming maximum a day.
*Typically women need less nutrients than men with the exception of salt and fibre.
Its all very well using numbers and figures to determine your exact portion sizes but follow this handy personal guide to a quick reference of what your portion sizes should consist of, especially useful when you are out and about.
|CARBS – rice/pasta/potato||Your clenched fist|
|PROTEIN – meat/poultry/fish||Palm of your hand|
|SAVOURIES – popcorn/crisps||2 of your cupped hands|
|BAKES – brownies/flapjacks||2 of your fingers|
|BUTTER & SPREADS||Tip of your thumb|
Nowadays, its becoming more and more common for cafes and restaurants to label the nutritional breakdown in each meal/food and also specifies how much in grams you are consuming but when in doubt, reference this chart and that way you will have a good estimate on how much you should be consuming to make sure you are in your RDA.
Kick start your metabolism by including protein at breakfast. Choose things like eggs, salmon, lean ham or low-fat dairy. We burn more calories digesting protein rather than carbohydrates so, by making your breakfast rich in protein, you’ll be revving up your metabolism and because protein foods keep you fuller for longer, you’ll eat fewer calories the rest of the day.
A protein breakfast needn’t take any longer to prepare. Top your morning toast with a scrambled egg, a slice of smoked salmon or some lean ham and when you do have a little more time enjoy an omelette or frittata.
Whatever you do don’t skip breakfast as this sets your blood sugar off on a roller coaster, which means you’ll end up choosing the wrong foods later in the day. Remember breakfast makes an important contribution towards your daily intake and it plays a key role in maintaining a healthy weight.
Eating little and often is the ideal way to manage your blood sugar levels. This doesn’t mean you’ll be eating more but simply spreading your daily intake evenly throughout the day. Make every snack count with nourishing options that supply both the ‘pick me up’ you need while topping up your five-a-day rather then bingeing out on a packet of high sugar, high fat chocolate digestives in your large vanilla latte.
Swap these morning biscuits for oatcakes spread with peanut or almond nut butter and a banana Oatcakes with Crunchy Peanut Butter or have a tasty dip with veggie sticks.
Make lunch a mix of lean protein and starchy carbs. Carb-rich foods supply energy and without them you’ll suffer that classic mid-afternoon slump. The key is to choose carbs that produce a steady rise in blood sugar, which means passing on the sugary ‘white’ carbs and going for high fibre whole-grains which help you manage the afternoon munchies.
Opt for an open rye-bread sandwich topped with salmon, chicken or low-fat Smoked Salmon on Rye Bread dairy as well as plenty of greenery or choose a bright and colourful tuna salad and replace the high fat dressings with a drizzle of olive oil or balsamic vinegar maybe with a side of whole-grain toast.
Satisfy that sweet craving and the need for energy with fruit. A handful of dried fruit combined with unsalted nuts or seeds, provides protein and healthy fats to keep you satisfied till dinner.
Swap your chocolate or cereal bar for a handful of dried apple rings with a few almonds or walnuts. Dried fruit is 4x as sweet as its fresh equivalent – which is great if you’ve got an exercise class or a gym
Spiced Apple Crisps session planned for the afternoon. Combining dried fruit with nuts helps stabilise the release of their sugars keeping you energised for longer. Alternatively stock your fridge with plenty of low calorie nibbles like cherry tomatoes, grapes and vegetable crudités, which will prevent you reaching for the biscuit tin when you fancy something sweet or crunchy.
Don’t give your carbs a curfew – they’re low in fat, rich in fibre and help you relax in the evening which means getting a good sleep which will allow your muscles time to repair and recover sufficiently. Combine them with some healthy essential fats the ones you find in oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines as well as nuts, seeds and their oils. Your body can use these healthy fats overnight for regeneration and repair, which is important for maintaining healthy skin and hair.
Fill half your plate with a colourful variety of vegetables or salad, drizzle with a dressing made from flaxseed or rapeseed oil and add meat, fish or beans with brown rice, quinoa or wholemeal pasta.
Any other tips to help me eat healthily?
Eat more fish
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends we all eat two portions of fish each week, one of which should be oil-rich such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines or fresh tuna. All fish is a good source of protein and many different vitamins and minerals. Oily fish are also a good source of omega-3 fats, which help to keep our heart healthy. In particular, omega-3 fats make the blood less viscous and so can help to prevent blood clots. They also keep the heart beating rhythmically and lower levels of triglycerides, a type of fat that’s found in the blood, high level of which are linked to heart disease and diabetes.
Watch out for hidden sugars
Many sugary products such as sweets, cakes, biscuits and soft or fizzy drinks contain few nutrients but are high in calories. As a result they are sometimes described as providing ‘empty’ calories. If you’re not sure whether a product contains a lot of sugar, check the label.
Start by looking at the ingredients list. The higher up sugar appears in the ingredients, the more the product contains. Look out for ingredients like sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, invert sugar, corn syrup and honey, too – they’re all types of sugar which are on the bad end of the spectrum. Looking at the values for sugars in the nutrition information panel on food packaging can be a little misleading as the figure includes both added sugars and naturally occurring sugars. This means fresh fruit may be labelled as having a medium or high sugar content.
However, this is due to naturally occurring fruit sugars. That’s why it’s also important to look at the ingredients list. As a guideline, the FSA says that 10g sugars or more per 100g is a lot of sugar while 2g sugars or less per 100g is a little sugar.
Drink plenty of water
Drink around 6 to 8 glasses (1.2 litres) of water, or other fluids, every day to prevent dehydration. As well as helping the body to get rid of waste products and toxins in the urine, water transports nutrients and oxygen around the body in the blood, it acts as a lubricant for our joints and eyes, it helps us swallow, it cushions and protects our nerves and it helps control our body temperature.
Research also shows that drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated can do everything from helping with weight control and beating tiredness to boosting concentration and fighting wrinkles.