Many people think they are experts when it comes to nutrition and healthy living, but in reality their knowledge of what they should and shouldn’t be eating is limited.
With so many myths surrounding nutrition, it is understandable that a lot of us find it hard to comprehend what a balanced diet actually is. There are plenty of hints and tips out there, some of which are valid and some that are complete nonsense. Here’s a handy guide to the dos and don’ts of eating and drinking.
Do – Eat breakfast
It’s an old cliché, but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast perform better academically, and schools throughout the UK have introduced schemes that encourage youngsters to eat a nutritious meal first thing in the morning.
According to cereal maker Kellogg’s, one in five of us skip breakfast, which means we are failing to kick-start our metabolism, missing out on the vital nutrients we need to get us through the day.
Don’t – Fall for supermarket deals
We all have an eye for a bargain and it is easy to get lured into high volume food deals in supermarkets. How many times have you left a store with three huge packs of meat when your original aim was to pick up some chicken for that evening’s stir-fry?
While it is understandable that a lot of people will think of their bank balance before their diet, purchasing food that you don’t really need is never a good idea.
Do – Plan ahead
The best way to stick to a healthy diet is to plan what you are going to eat throughout the coming week. The average male is advised to consume around 2,500 calories a day as part of a balanced diet in order to maintain their weight and this falls to 2,000 for women.
Food labelling standards have risen significantly in recent years, so it has never been easier to identify exactly how many calories are in foods, which means you should have no problem constructing healthy, tasty and imaginative meals.
Don’t – Follow fad diets
Barely a week goes by without a revolutionary new diet emerging, and it is far too easy for people to jump on the bandwagon. Whether it is the low-carbohydrate Atkins diet or the juice diet, there always seems to be a new fad doing the rounds.
Many of these diet plans have been criticised by doctors and some of them pose a genuine threat to a person’s health in the long term. Cutting vital nutrients out of your diet can pose a huge risk to your health, so if you are in doubt, speak to an expert.
Do – Eat five fruit and veg a day. Or is it seven?
For many years, we’ve been instructed to eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and veg every day, but is this enough? A study published by University College London in April 2014 showed that eating seven pieces of fruit or veg a day reduces the risk of dying of cancer by 25 per cent and lowers the chances of a person suffering from heart disease by 31 per cent. Having analysed findings from the Health Survey for England report – an annual survey commissioned by the Health and Social Care Information Centre – the researchers concluded that vegetables provide more benefits than fruit.
Australia has already implemented a “Go for 2 + 5” campaign in order to encourage people to consume seven portions of fruit or veg a day and UK citizens may want to follow suit. That said, sticking to the five-a-day routine will do you no harm whatsoever.
Don’t – Miss meals
People who are looking to lose weight often mistakenly think they can achieve this by skipping meals altogether. The NHS advises that eating regularly throughout the day is the best way to shed a few pounds.
Eating healthy, nutritious meals not only boosts metabolism, helping to burn calories at a faster rate, but it also reduces the temptation to gorge on snacks.
Do – Take care over what you drink
Never underestimate the importance of drinking healthily. It should go without saying that most fizzy drinks are full of caffeine and sugar, and are best avoided.
According to the NHS, people sometimes confuse thirst with hunger and they eat something when a glass of water would have sufficed. This obviously means that unnecessary calories are being taken on board. The European Food Safety Authority recommends that women should drink around 1.6 litres of fluid per day, while men should consume around two litres.
Don’t – Sacrifice quality for quantity
We’re all entitled to a “cheat day” every now and then, aren’t we? While it is important to stick to a healthy diet, there is no harm in having the occasional takeaway meal as a treat. The old adage says ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’ and in this case, through moderation, you can keep yourself on track by allowing little lapses.
However, you should still try to keep things under control. If you are partial to chocolate, for example, buy a quality bar that costs the same as four or five standard products. You’ll appreciate the luxuriousness of this fine chocolate and you won’t have to deal with the guilt of eating numerous bars in one sitting.