The Ultimate Guide to Healthy Eating

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Sounds obvious doesn't it, 'eat healthily'? As some of you may know too well, it’s not that always that easy: especially given all the misinformation and fad diets out there, what are you supposed to be believe? So here are the fact based basics (try saying that fast!) of healthy eating from the professionals. Grit&Grain has done all the learning so you don't have to! All you have to do is find 10 mins to read this article, follow the tips and you're on the right track to living a healthy life :)

Calories

These guys get a hard time and I can understand why but it’s time to shake the stigma and learn the facts. Calories are just a way of measuring energy. And if there is one thing you take away from reading this today, let it be this; the key to get to, and maintain, a healthy weight is to balance your energy. That's it: simple science. If you take in more calories than you expend (burn off) you will put on weight. If you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight. If the amount of calories you eat and burn is the same, you will stay the same weight. As an average it’s recommended that men should consume no more than 2500 calories a day and women 2000. This is obviously an estimate. If you would like to know a more accurate number of how many calories you should be consuming based on your age, height, weight, work life and exercise levels, please just get in touch!

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It's important to remember that its not only the number of calories that is important but quality of calories and the balance of different foods and ensuring you are getting all the nutrients your body needs. Eating 100kcal of fried chicken is not the same as eating 100kcal of broccoli due to their nutritional value. 

 

Starchy Carbs

Starchy carbohydrates include potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and cereals. These bad boys should make up just over one third of the food you eat. Opt for wholegrain varieties (or eat potatoes with their skins on) when you can: they contain more fibre, and can help you feel full for longer. Winner!

Will starchy food make you put on weight? It's unlikely this (and eating any other food in moderation for that matter!) is the cause of weight gain because gram for gram, carbohydrate in these foods contains less than half the calories of fat. Generally speaking, Carbohydrates have 4kcal per one per gram and fat has 9kcal. The moment these starchy guys contribute to weight gain generally comes down to how you cook them. For example, cooking chips in oil, having butter on bread and creamy sauces on pasta will quickly increase the calorie content. Essentially weight gain comes from eating too much in total, not from eating too much of one type of food or food group. 

Fruit and veg

We all hear and know about the '5 a day' rule. But do you know how much that is or what 1 portion should look like? 1 portion of fruit or veg = 80g, which isn't actually that much. It’s the equivalent to:

  • A slice of melon 
  • A medium sized apple
  • 2 small sized fruit such as a satsuma or plums 
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of peas
  • 2 broccoli spears 
  • A dessert bowl of salad 

Try snacking on an apple and a couple of satsumas a day or having more than one or two types of veggies for dinner.

There is substantial evidence to suggest eating as much as 10 a day comes with additional health benefits. However, if you currently only eat one or two portions a day try aiming for five to start with. If you frequently eat five try aiming for more. 

Cut down on saturated fat

Saturated fat increases the LDL (low density lipoproteins) also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood which can lead to heart disease. Choosing monounsaturated spreads and oils for cooking, such as olive or rapeseed oils help to lower blood levels of 'Bad' cholesterol, and boost levels of ‘good’ cholesterol HDL (high density lipoproteins).

Saturated fat is found in many foods such as those below, but remember there is no need to completely cut these out of your diet and never eat them again, having them in small amounts every now and again is ok. 

  • hard cheese
  • cakes
  • biscuits
  • sausages
  • cream
  • butter
  • lard
  • pies
  • ghee
  • coconut oil
  • palm oils
  • fatty meats 

Cut down on added sugar

Regularly consuming foods and drinks high in sugar increases your risk of obesity and tooth decay. Sugary foods and drinks, including alcoholic drinks, are often high in energy (calories), and if eaten/drunk too often, can contribute to weight gain. They can also cause tooth decay, especially if consumed between meals.

Fruit and milk sugars are different and don't contain added sugar and generally speaking we don't need to cut down on these. 

In order to reduce added sugar in your diet, try cutting down on the following. Again, if you enjoy eating the these foods that's ok, just eat and drink in moderation, small amounts and only every now and again. Just remember that we should be consuming less than 10% added sugar of our overall intake (5% for addiontional health benefits). So if you eat 2000 kcal a day, a maximum of 200 kcal should be from added sugar. 

  • sugary fizzy drinks
  • alcoholic drinks
  • sugary breakfast cereals
  • cakes
  • biscuits
  • pastries

Eat more fish

Fish is a great source of lean protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. Try to eat at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish which is full of omega-3 fats and these guys can help prevent heart disease.

Try to choose as wide a variety as possible...and sustainable too, we need to look after our oceans! Ask your fishmonger for advice if you're not sure :)  

Oily fish include:

  • salmon
  • mackerel
  • trout
  • herring
  • fresh tuna
  • sardines
  • pilchards.

Non-oily fish include:

  • haddock
  • plaice
  • coley
  • cod
  • canned tuna
  • skate
  • hake

Eat less salt

We all know that eating too much salt is bad for us but why? Those tiny white grains can actually raise your blood pressure. And people with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke.

Even if you don’t add salt to food you may still be eating too much. About 3/4 of the salt we eat hides in the food we buy, such as breakfast cereals, soups, breads and sauces.

To help you figure out how much salt is in the food you buy, try using the food labels to know the exact amount. More than 1.5g of salt per 100g means the food is high in salt. Adults shouldn't eat more than 6g of salt (about a teaspoonful) a day. 

Exercise

Exercise and just generally being physically active can help you to maintain weight loss and be healthy, no, you don't have to spend hours at the gym: you can find ways to fit more activity into your daily life. For example, walking further to get lunch at work, getting off the bus one stop early and walking the rest of the way, use the stairs instead of the lift, schedule daily short or weekly long walks with your family or friends, do at home exercise classes with online videos that don't require any equipment like these (maybe get your friends round and cook a healthy meal after together!), there are loads of options. 

So how much should we do?

The minimum amount of exercise recommended is:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week, and also
  • strength exercises on two or more days a week that works all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). Such as yoga, weight lifting etc.  

or

  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running or a game of singles tennis every week
  •  strength exercises on two or more days a week that works all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). 

Why is exercise great for us?

  • Firstly, and most importantly, it can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. 
  • Secondly, according to The Mental Health Foundation, exercise can help boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep and is also a significant benefit towards improving your mental health. 
  • Finally, it can also make us look and feel better

Water and other fluids

We need to drink lots of fluids to stop us getting dehydrated. The recommended amount of fluid we drink is 1ml of fluid for every calorie we burn. For example, if you burn 2500 calories (which we know if the average amount for men) a day you will need to drink about 2.5 litres of fluid a day. All non-alcoholic drinks count towards this overall fluid intake, but water is the healthier choice. It's important to remember not wait until you are thirsty to drink and if you are very active or if the weather is warm we may need to drink more.