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To remain healthy and function properly your body needs a wide range of nutrients found in a variety of foods. A balanced diet is one that includes all the food groups in the right proportions. The Food Pyramid is a visual guide to a healthy diet. You should eat more of the foods from the bottom two shelves of the pyramid, namely, breads, cereals, potatoes, fruit and vegetables, with smaller amounts of foods coming from milk, cheese, yoghurt, meat and alternatives. Choosing foods from each shelf of the Food Pyramid in the amounts suggested will provide a balance of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals each day.
Wholegrain starchy foods such as bread, cereals, rice, potatoes and pasta should make up a third of what you eat each day as they contain vital carbohydrates - the body’s main source of energy.Try to select unrefined carbohydrates found in wholegrain cereals, brown bread, brown rice and wholewheat pasta over ‘white’ refined ones, as those that contain the whole grain are rich in fibre which help the body eliminate waste.
Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables - at least five portions per day - will help you take in enough of the assortment of important vitamins, minerals, trace elements and fibres that your body needs. Eating a mixture of the colours you find in fruit and vegetables is also important as each colour represents a unique benefit to you. For example red tomatoes contain lycopene a powerful anti-oxidant while carrots and mangoes contain beta-carotene a source of Vitamin A; citrus fruits, strawberries and kiwi fruits provide vitamin C, which helps you absorb iron.
Meat is an important part of a balanced diet but that we need to eat red meat in moderation. Protein promotes the growth and repair of all our cells, especially in young bodies. Lean meat, fish, eggs, beans and nuts are all good sources of protein. We should aim to eat more fish instead of red meat, as well as including a portion of oily fish each week. Oily fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which can help keep our hearts healthy.
The Food Pyramid recommends that we eat 3 portions of dairy per day. Eating or drinking some dairy foods per day will help maintain the body’s source of calcium which is essential for developing and preserving healthy bones and teeth through life. Choose low-fat or reduced-fat versions to ensure you keep an eye on your intake of saturated fat.
To stay healthy we need some fat in our diets to help the body absorb certain vitamins and provide energy, but it is the kind of fat we eat that is important. There are two types of fat - saturated and unsaturated fat:Too much saturated fat is linked with serious long-term health problems like raised blood cholesterol which puts the heart at risk. Foods typically high in saturated fat include cheese, butter, lard, and red meat products such as pies and sausages, crème fraiche, and oils. We should eat these fats sparingly. Monounsaturated fat known as the ‘good’ fats, provides essential fatty acids. Omega 3, found in abundance in oil-rich fish, has also been shown to help protect against coronary heart disease.We all like a treat once in a while and it’s not practical or necessary to restrict sucrose (sugar) completely in your diet. However, sugary foods or drinks between meals can increase your calorie intake and increase the risk of tooth decay.
A high intake of salt is believed to be a major factor in the development of high blood pressure. The average daily salt intake in Ireland is high - approximately 10g in adults, which is well in excess of our requirements. Reducing salt intakes to no more than 6g a day is considered to be an achievable target for adults in Ireland.Reducing the amount of salt we add to food ourselves is not the only answer, as many processed foods we buy off the shelf have salt added to them already. Check the labels on foods and consider your daily allowance. Compare labels and choose foods that are lower in salt. Some foods high in salt include bacon, cheese, crisps and many ready made meals.
GDA's provide an 'eat at a glance' recommended guide to what proportions of calories, fats, sugars and salt amounts you require per day. If food is particularly high in one or more of these categories you can than balance your diet by choosing something with a lower option in the next meal.At a glance
Think about exercising as soon as you finish work – even housework counts. It can be as simple as a brisk or power walk in three 10 minute chunks.Try these simple ideas to increase your activity:
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