South Asian food groups
A bespoke version of the Eatwell Guide has been created for the South Asian communities. The Eatwell Guide was designed to give a visual representation of our plate and the balance we should aim for of each food group.
We’ve included further information about each food group below:
Fruit and vegetables
It’s recommended that we eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day which most of us are still not achieving.
These include foods such as watermelon, mangoes, grapes, papaya, okra, mooli, bitter gourd, brinjal, cauliflower and spinach.
Fruit and vegetables should make up at least a third to a half of what we eat every day and you can choose from fresh, frozen and tinned.
Try to limit your intake of shop bought and freshly squeezed fruit juices to 150 ml per day as they are usually high in sugar and don’t contain as much fibre. It's better to eat the fruit instead of drinking the fruit.
Fruit and vegetables are a great source of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre which are all needed to keep our bodies healthy.
Carbohydrates are foods that break down to sugar in the body. These may be sweet foods like mitai, halwa, kheer, rusk biscuits, sugared breakfast cereals, honey, and concentrated fruit juices, or starchy foods like potatoes, rice, chapattis, naan breads and parathas.
Sweet (refined) carbohydrate foods should be limited as they can cause blood glucose levels to rise quickly. These types of carbohydrates are classified as having a high glycaemic index.
Starchy carbohydrates (like rice, chapatti, roti) may be taken in moderation and can make up about a quarter of our plate along with plenty of vegetables, dals and protein foods.
Some people have found reducing their starchy carbohydrate intake below these levels helps them lose weight, and gives better control of their blood glucose levels if they have diabetes.
There are better choices that you can make with starchy foods that raise blood glucose levels much slower. Wholegrain varieties have a much lower glycaemic index so choose these when possible. Examples of these are brown or wild rice, wholemeal chapattis and potatoes with their skin on which provide the most nutrients and contain higher levels of fibre.
Bhajra (millet) roti is a good source of fibre as is besan (gram flour). You can also mix soya flour with your regular chapatti atta to boost fibre and protein.
Dairy includes things like milk, lassi/chaas, yoghurt (raita) and cheese like paneer, and you should aim to eat 2 – 3 portions of dairy a day.
Dairy products are a great source of calcium which is really important to keep your bones strong, protein, which is important to build and repair muscles, and vitamins.
Dairy products can sometimes be high in fat and sugar so check the labels and choose low-fat and low sugar varieties when making foods like kheer, rasmalai or masala chai.
Beans, meat, fish, eggs, pulses and other proteins:
We should aim to eat 2–3 portions a day and 2 portions of fish, 1 of which is oily fish, per week.
All of these foods are good sources of protein, which is important for the body to grow and repair itself. They also contain vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc and B vitamins.
Red meat is a great source of these nutrients, but it is important to consume these in moderation as they are high in saturated fat. The current recommendation is to eat no more than 3 portions a week.
Try to choose lean cuts of meat and cut off any visible fat. Leaner meats include chicken or fish.
Dals and pulses such as lentils, red kidney or black eyed beans are good alternatives to meat as they are great sources of protein and fibre and are lower in saturated fat.
Oily fish contains omega 3 fatty acids which are essential fatty acids that cannot be made by the body in sufficient amounts. They can lower triglycerides (a type of 'bad' fat found in the blood) and help protect against heart disease.
Examples of oily fish include fresh tuna, salmon and sardines. Vegetarian sources of omega-3's include nuts, linseeds (flaxseeds), dark green leafy vegetables and soya bean.
Oils and spreads:
We do need some fat in our diets but this should come from unsaturated fats such as sunflower, rapeseed and olive oils and spreads made from these oils.
Try to use healthier cooking oils made from plants or seeds like rapeseed and sunflower oils and spreads made from these oils, rather than saturated fats like palm/ coconut oil and ghee.
Avoid adding ghee or butter to your chapatti dough and cooked dal and avoid spreading fat on cooked chapattis.
Too much fat in our diets, particularly saturated fats (such as in red meat, ghee, takeaways) raises our cholesterol levels which increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
Foods high in fat, sugar and salt:
As part of a healthy diet, we don’t need any foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt.
Salt can raise blood pressure, so avoid adding salt to food and sauces and when cooking, use low salt stock cubes rather than ready made. Limit intake of fried foods like puri, pakora, samosa and bombay mix as these foods are high in salt.
High fat/ sugar/ salt foods will damage our health and increase the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer and stroke.
Sweets/mitai like ladoo, barfi, jaleebi, kheer and halwa are high in sugar and fat and should only be eaten on special occassions and in small amounts.
You can bake, grill, steam or use air fryers to cook foods that are traditionally fried. Limit takeaways and home delivery meals as these tend to also be high in saturated fats and salt.
Avoid buying ready-made meals and highly processed foods such as ready made parathas, frozen Punjabi samosas, frozen chips, nuggets and pizza as they are high in salt, fat and have little nutritive value.
For further resources, have a look at the Heart UK website.
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