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Healthy eating guidelines

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Healthy eating ensures that you provide your body with all of the energy and nutrients it needs to be healthy, maintain its immune system, and develop fitness and strength. All foods can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet, if we apply three key concepts: balance, variety and moderation.

The dietary guidelines below provide a summary for how we should be eating each day.  Implement these tips as part of your daily routine. 

Enjoy a variety of foods
Eating a variety of foods means we enjoy the nutrient benefits that different foods have to offer.  A sustainable and healthy diet does not focus on eating the same foods every day, but rather on a variety of colours, textures, flavours and types.  Keep your meals interesting by trying new ingredients and recipes. 

Be active!
Accumulate at least 30 minutes of physical activity each and every day of the week.  While you feel you are too tired to be physically active, regular exercise helps to improve the body’s structure and resilience, and even helps to boost your immune system. 

Make starchy foods a part of most meals
The best choices in this food group are whole grain, less-refined foods, such as oats, whole-wheat bread, high fibre cereals, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice.  Whenever you choose a starchy food, always opt for the higher fibre version as shown in the examples below:

Instead of…

Rather choose…

Cooked potatoes with the skin removed

Cooked potatoes eaten with the skin and baby potatoes

White bread

Whole-wheat or seed bread

Breakfast cereals which do not offer a source of fibre

High fibre breakfast cereals

White pasta or rice

Whole wheat pasta and brown rice

High energy low fibre snacks

Homemade popcorn

Increase your intake of vegetables and fruit

Vegetables and fruits make quick and easy low fat snacks for refuelling, and they contain beneficial nutrients with relatively fewer kilojoules when compared to other snack foods. At least 5 servings of a variety of different vegetables and/or fruit are recommended every day. 

Plan a serving of protein at every meal

A serving of protein-rich food should be planned at every meal. This helps to stabilise your blood sugar levels and will help prevent you from feeling too hungry in between your meals.  Always remember that when choosing a protein food, you should opt for the leaner or lower fat options.  Remember also to remove excess fat from meat before cooking, including the skin of chicken.  Legumes are plant sources of protein which are further beneficial in that they offer a source of B-vitamins and fibre.  Try to replace meat with legumes at least twice a week. 

Manage your intake of fats

Your diet should be generally low in fat.  Eating fats in excess, even the healthy kind, may cause you to gain weight.  Choose lower fat versions of dairy products and leaner versions of meat products.  Fast foods and takeaways tend to contain more fat than you may be aware of, and should be reserved for eating on special occasions only.  Preparing your foods at home gives you better control over how much fat goes into the meal.  Certain fats and oils, such as omega 3’s found in fatty fish and monounsaturated fats such as olive and canola oil promote good health, and the inclusion of these fats into your diet on a daily basis is recommended.  Aim to eat 2 – 3 servings of oily fish per week, and when choosing vegetables oils, use only 1 teaspoon per person sharing when preparing a meal. 

Don’t forget the dairy!

Low fat and fat free dairy products such as milk, low fat cheese, yoghurt and maas are a source of protein and calcium, and these foods should be eaten every day.  There are many delicious lower-fat dairy products on the market, such as fat free drinking yoghurts, flavoured low fat milks and low fat cottage cheese.  Dairy can provide a substantial snack or accompaniment to your meal. 

Restrict the sugary foods

Sugar and sugary foods, such as biscuits, cakes, chocolate, sweets and soft drinks  are ‘empty calorie foods’ providing you with a lot of extra energy, but not much nutrition.

  • Avoid all fizzy drinks and energy drinks that are high in sugar.
  • If you feel in need of something sweet, cut up some fresh fruit or have dried fruit such as mango.
  • Prepare a mug of hot chocolate using cocoa, hot fat free milk and sweetener for a low fat treat.

Use salt and foods high in salt sparingly

Having too much salt in your diet can cause your blood pressure to increase, leading to long-term health risks such as increased risk for heart disease and stroke.  Be aware that processed foods tend to be higher in salt than fresh foods, and try to avoid using salt in your cooking and at the dinner table. 

Limit alcohol

Alcohol has very high energy content and it may interfere with your body’s normal metabolism.   Drinking alcohol in excess also affects your judgement, and may result in you eating foods which you may not normally eat as part of your healthy eating plan.  If you choose to drink alcohol, drink moderately with no more than 1 – 2 drinks per day.

Increase your fluids

Being just slightly dehydrated may be misinterpreted as hunger.  Try to spread your water intake evenly across the day.  Have a glass when you wake up, one with breakfast, one with your morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and before bed.  Keep a bottle of water on your desk at work and tip regularly from it across the day.  Flavour your water with freshly chopped fruit and mint for extra fruity freshness!

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