What is a 'healthy' diet?

This is the first in a short series of blogs about nutrition. We will talk about what a healthy diet looks like and how you can achieve this, and why it is important. Don't worry, we're not going to be going into great details about macro-nutrients, micro-nutrients and vitamins - only the essentials. We will point you in the right direction if you want to know more though.


So - what is a healthy diet?


The NHS define a healthy diet as "eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight". Easy to say but what does it mean and how can you make quick easy changes to your eating habits. Read on.....

Have you heard of the "Eatwell Guide"?

If not, have a quick look at this link from the NHS site - you may remember being shown something similar at school. It provides a rough idea how to balance your daily intake of fruit & vegetables, carbohydrates, protein and dairy/fats.


Bear in mind that this is a guide only and applies to adults who are mildly active and want to maintain a healthy body weight. The amount and type of food you eat and should alter if you change your lifestyle (for example - if you join a fitness group 😀). You will naturally be burning more calories and therefore need to replace these with something healthy and useful for your body.


In addition to this, the way you cook food also has a big impact on how healthy it can be. This is what we are going to cover in today's blog.


Boiling

Boiling food generally involves heating food to around 100C in large amounts of water. Boiling food reduces the amount of vitamin C retained more than any other cooking method. Vitamin C is water soluble and therefore migrates from the food into the water during the boiling process, but if you then use this water for gravy, soup or stock you can put the vitamins back into your meal.


Broil & Grill

Broiling is coking food under high, direct heat For a short period of time - ideal for cooking tender cuts of meat. However, up to 40% of B vitamins and some minerals can be lost as the juices dip from the meat.

Grilling is similar but the heat source comes from below (like a BBQ). This is popular because it adds taste to the food but can also lose some of the vitamin B and other minerals.

Microwave

Nowadays, microwaves get a bad name due to their link with pre-prepared packaged foods. However, it is actually a very healthy way to cook, as it has the shortest cooking time and therefore retains most of the nutrients in food.

Using a microwave to defrost and cook frozen vegetables is the most efficient way to ensure the highest level of nutrients and vitamins. It is worthwhile pointing out though, that due to the uneven method of cooking, microwaving meat is not recommended.


Saute & Stir Fry

These are similar methods and involve cooking food in a saucepan or wok over a medium to high heat with a small amount of oil. This is a good way to cook food and retain vitamins and minerals, as the stirring keeps the temperature high and the cooking time short, however it does lead to a loss of vitamin C.


So, as you can see - the method of cooking can substantially alter how healthy your meal is. The difference between roasting a chicken in your oven for an hour or grilling it for 10 minutes can be huge. Boiling ‘fresh’ vegetables in a large saucepan of water until they are soft and mushy is much less healthy than microwaving them for 2 minutes straight from frozen.

The next blog in this series will discuss portion sizes, how to balance proteins, carbs and fats and how to make healthy choices.

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