A balanced diet
This week, people across the UK are celebrating Healthy Eating Week. Getting a balanced diet is essential when it comes to healthy eating. But what does it really mean - and how can we do it?
What is a balanced diet?
A balanced diet is the most important part of healthy eating. It is the best way to provide the body with what it needs to stay working properly. The human body needs a mixture of foods, nutrients and vitamins to function.
Healthy eating is all about making sure that we provide that right balance. It involves having the right amount of food from the different food groups.
What are food groups?
Different kinds of food help the body in different ways. A food group is a collection of foods that share nutritional properties. In other words, they help the body in similar ways. The main groups are carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, dairy products - or dairy-free alternatives like soya - protein, and fat.
Why do we need them?
Each group provides the body with something specific that it needs to stay healthy.
Carbohydrates provide energy. Fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins. They also provide fibre which helps us digest our foods. Dairy gives us an element called calcium that helps with our bones. Our bodies need proteins to repair themselves, and they use fats to store up energy. It is a good idea to vary your meals, as well as balancing food groups. For example, try to eat a range of vegetables from day to day. You could also swap chicken for chickpeas to get your protein from a different source.
Isn’t fat bad for you?
It’s true that there are some foods we need to eat less often. Fat is one of them: it should only make up 30% of our daily food. But that doesn’t mean you should cut it out completely. Moderation is important in healthy eating. It means that you should not have too much of any one thing.
There are also more and less healthy ways to consume fat. While cakes and chocolate are less good for us, fats in oils and nuts are better for the body.
Why do we have to drink water?
It might not look like it, but our bodies are made up of around 60% water. It can be found in every single cell and it is used in our organs to help keep temperature regular. Throughout the day, the body uses up water and it is also lost through digestion and from sweating. That means, we have to drink enough to keep our bodies going. We can get water in other ways, too. It is present in fruit juice, tea, squash, and even fruits like cucumber and watermelon.
What else is important?
A balanced diet is only part of what you need for a healthy lifestyle. Being active is also an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise improves circulation and keeps your heart healthy. This could help prevent illness and disease later on. Exercise is also excellent for mental wellbeing because it can reduce anxiety and improve self-esteem.
- When you are eating something, do you often think about whether it is a healthy option?
- Come up with a meal that matches the Eatwell plate as much as possible. Then ask an adult to help you make it!
- There are 13 vitamins, each with different jobs. Vitamin D helps to keep your bones healthy, while Vitamin C helps to protect you from illness and keeps your skin healthy. Our bodies only need very small amounts to stay healthy.
- These are sugars found in grains. We can find them in foods like pasta and bread.
- Anything made using milk from a mammal - usually a cow - like milk, cheese or yoghurt.
- These are long chains of molecules. We find them in every living thing, and they are necessary for our bodies to grow and repair.
- A plant material found in lots of foods. Fibre plays an important role in helping with our digestion, even though our bodies don’t actually digest it.
- To break down food inside the body once you have eaten it. The process is called digestion.
- A kind of bean that looks like a large, pale pea. Chickpeas are a brilliant (and delicious) vegetarian option for a high-protein food.
- When you avoid doing something in extremes. When we are talking about moderation with food, it means not having too much or too little of something.
- The fats found in oils are called “unsaturated”. These fats are easier for the body to break down and better for your heart.
- Small building blocks that can be found in every living thing on the planet. We are made up entirely of different kinds of cell. They are so small, they can only be seen by a microscope.
- The movement of blood through the arteries and veins of the body.
- The way you feel about yourself. If you have high self-esteem, you are very confident and happy with yourself.