Food plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and its importance cannot be underestimated. Taking an interest in food and being motivated to look at what we eat is probably the most important aspect of improving our diet.
Eating healthily is relatively straightforward and is based around balancing the types of food that we eat. The information contained within this page should help develop the idea of balancing foods in our diet and give practical tips on how this works.
In certain medical conditions more specific diets are important and these should be discussed with your doctor.
Types of food
Most of the food that we eat can be largely grouped into five main categories. While nearly all of the food groups provide some positives in the form of vitamins, minerals and energy, to have too much of them can also be detrimental.
The main groups are:
- Fruit and vegetables.
- Starchy foods.
- Fish, meat, eggs and beans.
- Milk and Dairy.
- Fat and sugar.
The following links offer good simple advice on how best to balance our food intake and then maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Fruit and Vegetables
There has been lots of work done looking at the positive impact of eating fruit and vegetables, thought to be directly attributable to the vitamins and minerals that they contain.
There is evidence that by eating five portions of fruit or vegetables a day that risk of cardiovascular problems and some cancers are reduced. One portion equates to one banana or apple. In terms of vegetables it equates to three heaped tablespoons of vegetables.
In order to help plan a balanced menu containing recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables, this shopping tool may be useful.
These include bread, cereals, pasta and potatoes. Not only do these foods provide vitamins they also are the main source of fuel for our bodies to work well. Fibre is also a form of starch and this and diets high in fibre help prevent constipation.
Starchy food should make up one third of our diet and often forms a part of most meals.
Meat and Fish
Not only do meat and fish contain vitamins and minerals, but they also provide protein, which is a crucial building block to growth and repair.
It is advised to try and eat two portions of fish per week, of which one should be an oily fish.
With regard to meat, think about the cuts of meat that are being cooked. For example, try and get the leanest pieces of meat and trim off any excess fat. Also remember that the way in which meat is cooked (for example frying) can have a significant impact upon its fat content.
Milk and Dairy
Milk and dairy products contain many vitamins and also calcium, which is good for our bones. It is important to remember that some dairy products contain quite high levels of saturated fat and ways to reduce this include using semi-skimmed milk and low fat yoghurts.
Fat and Sugar
Both fat and sugar are great sources of energy, but this means that when we do not use all of this energy in the form of activity and exercise, our bodies form fat stores which in turn cause us to put on weight.
Not all fats are bad and different types of fat will have contrasting effects upon both are cholesterol levels and also our cardiovascular risk. The following link provides some further information about the types of fat that exist and which foods contain both good and bad fats.
How can Lion Health help?
The Lion Health Surgery has many health care professionals including the nursing team and health care assistants who can give you a wide range of health promotion advice.
Many of our health promotion and chronic disease clinics will discuss diet as part of our assessment.
For those who meet specific criteria, we can offer weight watchers vouchers for those motivated to lose weight by this particular method. You can contact reception to request referral to a slimming club.
There are times when the doctors may advise patients to have a low salt diet (particularly in those with high blood pressure) or a low potassium diet. These special diets should only be undertaken after consultation with your doctor.
Cholesterol Lowering and Weight Reducing Dietary Advice:
33 Simple Diet and Fitness Tips
Diet and workout tips that work
Say hello to H20
Find the best fitness friend
Stock up on these
Relieve those achy muscles
Curb your sweet tooth
Buy comfy sneaks
Pick your perfect tunes
When to weigh
Police your portions
Combat cocktail hour
Eat this, run that
Turn your cheat day around
Run with this
Be a weekend warrior
Fun up your food
Up your exercise
Have a fruity ice cream sundae
Swap out your shoes
Snag the right support
Relieve those side stitches
Shake your way slim
Fuel for fitness
Say goodbye to peer pressure
Savor your carbs
Ditch your working lunch
Slim up your snack
Find healthy fast food
Be a mighty maintainer
Up your fiber intake
Work out in the morning
Have a hearty breakfast
Nutrition for kids: 5 tips
Nutrition for kids: 5 tips
1) Stick to concrete ideas
Avoid abstract concepts. Children only start to understand abstract concepts once they reach about 11 or 12 years old. For example some concrete ideas are:
- Eat lots of different foods every day
- Eat fruit and vegetables of all colours of the rainbow every day
- Talking about whole food items
- Classifying foods by where they come from
- “Sometimes” and “everyday” foods
- Note: the classification of foods into everyday or sometimes is an abstract concept, but how often foods are recommended to be eaten is a concrete idea.
Some abstract concepts are:
- Vitamins and minerals
- Other nutrients that can’t be seen (e.g. protein, calcium, saturated fat)
- Classification of foods by nutrients
- Recommended serve size; daily recommended serves
- Chronic disease risk
- Processes by which food affects health
2) Avoid complicated phrases
Kids can often recite facts and phrases without really understanding them. For example, younger children probably don’t understand what ‘variety’ means and many kids might only know the word ‘diet’ to be a special way of eating (for example to lose weight or for diabetes) rather than a person’s everyday food consumption. Other terms kids might not understand are healthy weight, low fat or low sugar. When talking with your child, keep checking in with them and ask them to explain back to you what they know – that way you’ll get an idea for how much they’ve grasped.
3) Use props!
When referring to a particular food, use the real food item or a picture of the food so your child knows what you’re talking about. Chat about the food you’re preparing and eating for dinner. Ask them how the food grows or where you can find it; discuss seasonal produce and the kinds of environments foods need to grow.
4) Be meaningful
Kids live in the present, so focus on the immediate benefits rather than long term ones. Being strong, growing well and having enough energy to climb the monkey bars are important concepts to kids. They’re less concerned about their longterm disease risk or heart health!
5) Be a role model
Research shows what you eat and do influences children’s habits more than what you say. Studies also show that an authoritative parenting style is also associated with positive dietary results in children. Authoritative parenting doesn’t necessarily need to be overly restrictive nor lax, but it sets some boundaries around the consumption of “sometimes” foods. Families that eat meals together are also associated with children who eat more fruit and vegetables.
Diet During Pregnancy
Dieting During Your Pregnancy
What does diet during pregnancy mean? When we refer to diet during pregnancy, we are not speaking about restricting calories or trying to lose weight. Dieting to lose weight during pregnancy can be hazardous to you and your baby, especially since a weight loss regimen may restrict important nutrients such as iron, folic acid, and other important vitamins and minerals.
Therefore, we recommend avoiding popular diets such as Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, Raw Food Diet, and so on.
The type of diet we encourage during pregnancy refers to fine-tuning your eating habits to ensure you are receiving adequate nutrition for the health of you and your baby. Healthy eating during pregnancy is critical to your baby’s growth and development. In order to get the nutrients you need, you must eat from a variety of food groups, including fruits and vegetables, breads and grains, protein sources and dairy products.
Typically, you will need to consume an extra 300 calories a day.
It is always important to eat a variety of foods throughout the day making certain you get the nutrients both you and your baby need. Here is a look at the food groups and some suggested sources for creating a healthy diet during pregnancy.
Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables contain many important nutrients for pregnancy especially, Vitamin C and Folic Acid. Pregnant women need at least 70 mg of Vitamin C daily, which is contained in fruits such as oranges, grapefruits and honeydew, and vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, and brussel sprouts.
In order to prevent neural tube defects, 0.4 mg of folic acid per day is recommended. A good source of folic acid can be found in dark green leafy vegetables (other sources of folic acid include legumes, such as black or lima beans, black-eyed peas, and veal). You should have at least 2-4 servings of fruit and 4 or more servings of vegetables daily.
Breads and Grains: The body’s main source of energy for pregnancy comes from the essential carbohydrates found in breads and grains. Whole grain and enriched products provide important nutrients such as iron, B Vitamins, fiber and some protein, even. You can get the required amount of folic acid from fortified bread and cereal.
Depending on your weight and dietary needs, you should consume anywhere between 6-11 servings (6-11 oz) of breads/grains daily.
Protein: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and beans contain the protein, B vitamins and iron needed in pregnancy. Your developing baby needs plenty of protein, especially in the second and third trimesters. Iron helps to carry oxygen to your growing baby, and also carries oxygen to your muscles to help avoid symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, irritability, and depression.
The U.S. RDA recommends about 27 mg per day. Lean beef, chicken, lamb, liver, turkey, and veal are good options. Fish and some other seafood can be a good nutritional choice for pregnancy, within guidelines. Fish that contain high levels of mercury should be avoided. (Read more about Fish and Mercury Levels). You should consume at least 3 servings of proteindaily.
Dairy Products: At least 1000 mg of calcium is needed daily to support a pregnancy. Calcium is essential for building strong teeth and bones, normal blood clotting, and muscle and nerve function. Since your developing baby requires a considerable amount of calcium, your body will take calcium from your bones, if you do not consume enough through your diet (which can lead to future problems, such as osteoporosis).
Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt, cream soups, and puddings. Some calcium is also found in green vegetables, seafood, beans and dried peas. You should consume at least 4 servings of dairy productsdaily.
A Complement to Nutrition
Prenatal Vitamins: Although the main source of vitamins and nutrients needed during pregnancy should come from your diet, a daily prenatal vitamin can help fill small gaps—just in case you unintentionally do not get enough key nutrients. Prenatal vitamins should be taken up to three months before conception, if possible.
Consult your healthcare provider about which supplement is best for you.
REMEMBER – a prenatal vitamin, or any other supplement can only complement a healthy diet during pregnancy.
Sample Daily Menu
The following sample menu will give you some idea of what a pregnant woman should typically consume in a day for a healthy diet during pregnancy. Three small, but balanced, meals and three light snacks throughout the day are a good rule of thumb to ensure you and your baby’s nutritional needs are met.
Breakfast: Oatmeal cereal, banana, 1 slice whole wheat toast, 2 tsp jam, 1 cup skim milk
Snack: 1 cup yogurt, grapes
Lunch: Turkey (if deli meat, do not eat cold – heat to steaming to avoid Listeria) and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, small bag potato chips, pear, and 1 cup skim milk
Snack: Raw veggies and low-calorie dip
Dinner: 4 oz chicken, 1 cup wild rice, 1 cup veggies, 1 cup skim milk
Snack: fresh fruit or low-fat frozen yogurt