The key to a healthy diet is to eat the right amount of calories for your activity level in order to balance the energy you consume with the energy you use. If you eat or drink more than your body needs, you will gain weight because the energy you do not use is stored as fat. If you eat and drink too little, you will lose weight. You should also eat a wide range of foods to make sure you have a balanced diet and that your body is getting all the nutrients it needs. It is recommended that men consume approximately 2,500 calories per day. Women should have about 2,000 calories a day.
Enjoy plenty of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are among the most important foods for giving us enough vitamins, minerals and fibre. We should try to eat at least 5 servings a day. For example, a glass of fresh fruit juice at breakfast, perhaps an apple and a piece of watermelon as snacks, and a good portion of different vegetables at each meal. A portion of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables is 80g. A portion of dried fruit is 30g.
A 150ml glass of fruit juice, vegetable juice or smoothie also counts as 1 portion, but limit the amount you have to no more than 1 glass a day as these drinks are sugary and can damage your teeth.
Reduce salt and sugar intake
A high salt intake can result in high blood pressure, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. There are different ways to reduce salt in the diet:
- When shopping, we could choose products with lower sodium content.
- When cooking, salt can be substituted with spices, increasing the variety of flavours and tastes.
- When eating, it helps not to have salt at the table, or at least not to add salt before tasting.
Sugar provides sweetness and an attractive taste, but sugary foods and drinks are rich in energy, and are best enjoyed in moderation, as an occasional treat. We could use fruits instead, even to sweeten our foods and drinks.
You should drink plenty of fluids to avoid getting dehydrated. The government recommends drinking 6 to 8 glasses a day. It is in addition to the liquid that you get from the food you eat. All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water, low-fat milk, and low-sugar drinks, including tea and coffee, are healthier choices. Try to avoid sugary and carbonated drinks, as they are high in calories. They are also bad for your teeth. Even fruit juices and unsweetened smoothies are high in free sugar. Your combined total of fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothie drinks should not exceed 150ml per day, which is a small glass. Remember to drink more fluids in hot weather or during exercise.
Maintain a healthy body weight
The right weight for each us depends on factors like our gender, height, age, and genes. Being affected by obesity and overweight increases the risks of a wide range of diseases, including diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer.
Excess body fat comes from eating more than we need. The extra calories can come from any caloric nutrient – protein, fat, carbohydrate, or alcohol, but fat is the most concentrated source of energy. Physical activity helps us spend the energy, and makes us feel good. The message is reasonably simple: if we are gaining weight, we need to eat less and be more active!
Physical activity is important
Physical activity is important for people of all weight ranges and health conditions. It helps us burn off the extra calories, it is good for the heart and circulatory system, it maintains or increases our muscle mass, it helps us focus, and improves overall health well-being. We don’t have to be top athletes to get on the move! 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity is advised, and it can easily become part of our daily routine. We all could:
- use the stairs instead of the elevator,
- go for a walk during lunch breaks (and stretch in our offices in between)
- make time for a family weekend activity