What changes should I make to my diet?

What changes should I make to my diet?

A balanced diet means that you eat foods from all of the different food groups, but less of some foods and more of others. There are 5 main food groups:

Fruit and vegetables are a great source of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre which are all needed to keep our bodies healthy.

It’s recommended that we eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and should make up at least a third to a half of what we eat every day.

Carbohydrates are foods that break down to sugar in the body. These may be sweet foods like cakes, sweets, chocolate, biscuits, sugared breakfast cereals, honey, fruit and concentrated fruit juices, or starchy foods like potatoes, pasta, rice and bread.

Sweet carbohydrate foods should be limited as they can cause blood glucose levels to rise quickly. Starchy carbohydrates (like rice, potatoes, bread/ pizza base, oats, pasta) may be taken in moderation and can make up about a quarter of our plate along with plenty of vegetables and protein foods.

Dairy includes things like milk, yoghurt and cheese and you should aim to eat 2 – 3 portions of dairy a day.

Dairy products can sometimes be high in fat and sugar so check the labels and choose low-fat and low-sugar varieties.

Protein foods include meat, fish, beans, eggs, beans, and pulses. We should aim to eat 2–3 portions a day and 2 portions of fish, 1 of which is oily fish, per week.

Try to choose lean cuts of meat and limit the amount of red and processed meat, such as bacon and sausages, as these tend to be higher in saturated fat. Pulses such as beans, lentils, and peas are good alternatives to meat as they are great sources of protein and fibre and are lower in saturated fat.

We do need some fat in our diets but only in small amounts and come from unsaturated fats such as sunflower, rapeseed and olive oils and spreads made from these oils.

Too much fat in our diets, particularly saturated fats, (such as in meat, lard, and other animal products) raises our cholesterol levels which increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

As part of a healthy diet, we don’t need any foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar, and salt so these should be eaten only occasionally and in small amounts.

Which diet is best for weight loss?

There are many different weight loss diets and there isn’t one that’s better than another. The key to losing weight and keeping it off is to get your mind around that it’s not a diet, it’s really about making long-lasting and sustainable diet and lifestyle changes that work for you.

We’ve included some factors below that you may want to think about when making changes to your diet and lifestyle:

Contrasting large and tiny food portions of Spaghetti

Different people require different portion sizes of the major food groups and it depends on a variety of factors such as age, gender, and how active you are. If you are trying to lose weight, then portion control becomes even more important and you will need to eat smaller or fewer portions than is recommended generally.

An example of a nutritional label with the traffic light colouring

Get familiar with food labels to make healthier food choices. Most food packaging has a traffic light system food label on the front that gives you the values for calories, fat, sugar and salt. 

This can make comparing two different food choices a lot quicker and easier, as the more green colour coding you see on the packing, the healthier the food. It's recommended to limit your intake of foods with one or more red colour coding on the label.

Pint of lager 210 cals; pint of stout 210 cals; glas of red wine 190 cals; small measure of irish cream; serving of whisky 55 cals

Alcohol contains a lot of hidden calories and sugar so it can be a cause of gaining weight. It can be surprising how many calories are in alcohol, for example, a pint of lager is equivalent to a slice of pizza.

Keeping a diary of your food, mood, and activity levels are one of the key things you can do to get started. It lets you keep track of what you’re eating when you’re eating and how you’re feeling. 

Planning all of your meals and snacks is a really important strategy when you’re trying to lose weight. If you're tired, stressed, and don't have the ingredients to hand, chances are you will pick up something quick and convenient, like a pizza, a ready meal, or a takeaway just to make life a little easier. Now think about if you’d planned your meals for the week in advance and had all of the ingredients in to make that meal, chances are you will make it.

Getting into a routine with meal planning and shopping may seem like a bit of extra work to begin with but you’ll find it makes your life a bit easier in the week ahead and keep you on track.

Sometimes the body can confuse feelings of thirst as hunger so you can end up consuming extra calories when it is water that your body needs. You should aim to drink at least 2 litres of fluids a day. Stick to either water or no added sugar squash.




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