What you choose to eat each day, and in what quantity, directly affects your health.
Whether you’re eating too much of a certain food group or not getting enough variety, understanding nutrition is crucial to a healthy and happy lifestyle.
Good nutrition itself is recognised by the United Nations as a human right. Eating mindfully brings a whole host of health benefits, from managing your weight, to reducing your risk of developing chronic diseases and boosting your immune system.
Healthy eating is especially important in relation to your heart’s health, and is crucial for staving off serious problems such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, blood clots and strokes.
Use these nutrition guidelines to get your diet on the right track.
The basis of good nutrition
As a starting point, think about the following:
- Eat a balanced diet made up of a variety of different foods (e.g. proteins, vegetables and fruit, carbohydrates, legumes, fats)
- Ensure you are getting enough vegetables and fruits (the recommendation is 5 portions per day)
- Eat moderate portions to ensure you’re not taking in excessive amounts of calories
- Cut down your intake of salt, saturated fats and sugar
- Don’t skip meals and always have breakfast
What is a balanced diet?
You should try and include the following proportions of different food groups in your meals for a healthy nutritional balance:
- 33% fruit and vegetables
- 33% carbohydrate/starchy foods
- 12% meat, fish, eggs, beans
- 15% dairy
- 8% fats and sugars
Recommended daily food intake
Men should aim to eat no more than 2,500 kcal a day; women no more than 2,000 kcal.
In addition, you should keep in mind these total daily allowances for different foods:
- Total fat: 70g (of which saturates – 20g)
- Carbohydrates: 260g
- Protein: 50g
- Total sugars (including those from fruits): 90g
- Salt: 6g
Nutritional amounts per 100g
In order to get a realistic idea of what your daily intake would look like, we can break these down into the value of each per 100g. This is also the measurement that most supermarkets display on packets to show the nutritional content of their products.
- Total fat
High fat: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
Low fat: less than 3g of fat per 100g
- Saturated fat
High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g
Low: less than 1.5g of saturated fat per 100g
High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
Low: less than 5g of total sugars per 100g
High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
Low: less than 0.3g of salt per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)
Foods to use
- Oily fish: mackerel, salmon, trout, herring, fresh tuna, sardines, pilchards, carp, scad, sprats, whitebait, anchovies
- Non-oily fish: haddock, plaice, coley, cod, tinned tuna, skate, hake
- Shellfish: prawns, crab, mussels, squid
- Vegetable oils/spreads: sunflower, olive, corn, walnut, rapeseed
- Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, sesame
- Pulses, lentils, peas, chickpeas
- Wholegrain varieties of starchy food (e.g. pasta, rice)
- Dark green leafy vegetables: kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts
- Calcium fortified soya products
Foods to avoid
- Butter, lard or ghee
- Coconut or palm oil
- Hard cheeses and cream
- Red meats (eat no more than 70 g per day, if at all)
- Processed meats such as bacon, salami, sausages and cured meats
Healthy meal tips
Don’t fry food: many oils and cooking fats have an extremely high calorific content. Instead of frying, try baking, grilling, steaming or poaching your food. Steaming vegetables is especially good as it will retain more nutritional value than boiling. If you do use cooking fats, drain them off before adding sauces and vegetables.
Trim any visible fat: spare yourself the extra fat content and trim off any fat from your meat, this includes skins.
Start eating more fish: oily fish is a great source of long tail omega-3 and you should aim to consume at least 2 portions (oily and non-oily) per week. One portion amounts to 140 g of cooked fish. Try and get fresh or frozen fish, since canned and smoked fish are usually preserved using lots of salt.
If you eat meat, eat lower-fat cuts of red meat: try lean mince, topside of beef or leg joints. It’s also a good idea to avoid high-fat proteins, such as duck, processed meats such as sausage, and organ meats (kidneys and liver).
If you are a vegan or vegetarian, make sure you focus on getting iron, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and vitamin B12 into your diet.
Don’t add salt: Cooking a meal from scratch gives you the opportunity to limit your salt intake. Remember that many prepared sauces can contain high amounts of salt and sugar, and hold off on adding more salt.
Exercise goes hand-in-hand with good nutrition to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Click here for nutrition tips from our cardiac fitness specialist, Rob Jones.
For more direction on how to eat healthier, try one of our deliciously simple heart-healthy recipes.