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Eating a balanced diet is extremely important for keeping our bodies healthy. We asked the experts for their tips on getting the nutrients we need
Back in April, almost half of Brits said they aimed to improve their eating habits to tackle excess weight put on during the first lockdown* in spring.
Eating a nutritious diet is so important for our health – we asked the experts for their advice
But as we go into winter, it’s not just weight loss that’s important – a balanced diet is also essential for all-round good health.
Nutritionist Emma Scott says it’s important to eat a balanced diet, particularly in winter
‘Optimal nutrition plays a vital role in staying healthy,’ says nutritionist Emma Scott.
‘Regularly consuming a variety of vitamins and minerals is key to a good diet.’
Here, we break down exactly what goes into a balanced diet, and share the easy hacks for making healthier food choices every day.
WHAT IS A BALANCED DIET?
Knowing the right food choices can be hard. It’s recommended that we eat at least five 80g portions of varied fruit and vegetables every day**, yet a recent survey by Tonic Health found that only 39 per cent of us believe we’re managing that***.
GP Emma Newman says it’s important to eat a wide variety of fruit and veg for a healthy gut
GP and Tonic Health ambassador Dr Gemma Newman says: ‘Healthy, slow-release carbohydrates such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans contain many of the nutrients our body needs, and they can regulate the blood-sugar peaks, providing a slower and more sustained release of energy.’
Evidence shows that there are significant health benefits to getting the recommended 5 A Day, helping to reduce our risk of heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer**. Day-to-day, they improve our gut health, which is where nutrients are absorbed to support bodily functions.
‘Diversity is key for gut health,’ says Dr Newman. ‘Peppers, oranges, kiwi and cauliflower are great because our immune cells use a lot of vitamin C when we fight infections. Meanwhile, onions, leeks, garlic, bananas, oats and apples feed our gut-friendly bacteria.’
THREE WAYS TO GET MORE GREENS
1. Sneak veg into your morning routine by adding them to a smoothie (remember – no more than 150ml).
2. Use spinach to bulk out home-cooked curries.
3. Roast vegetables that you can mix in with salads during the week.
■ For more guidance on getting healthier, visit nhs.uk/better-health/
MINDFUL vs MINDLESS EATING
Twenty-four per cent of us believe that comfort eating is the reason we’ve gained weight during the Covid-19 restrictions, with more than half admitting that we stockpiled foods such as pasta, chocolate and crisps instead of frozen fruit and vegetables during the first lockdown*.
Dr Jane Glazebrook says we must learn to practise moderation, and get moving!
‘Comfort eating is prompted by our emotions rather than physical hunger signals,’ says Dr Jane Glazebrook from the Slimming Clinic, which offers doctor-led, weight-loss programmes. ‘The cold weather and darker nights can make us reach for sweet things and tempt us towards takeaways, but losing weight isn’t about denying yourself things – it’s about moderation, maintaining a balanced diet and incorporating some movement into your daily routine.’
One way to improve our eating habits, Dr Glazebrook says, is to practise ‘mindful eating’ over ‘mindless eating’.
‘Mindful eating means having an increased awareness of the food and drink you put into your body,’ she says. ‘It helps gain control over our eating habits and our impulses.’
‘Techniques we recommend include removing distractions such as the TV when you eat, taking time to chew food thoroughly and being aware of your body’s signals to stop eating when you feel full.’
THREE TAKEAWAY SUBSTITUTIONS
• Swap a pizza delivery for a wholemeal tortilla wrap covered with your favourite toppings.
• Ditch fish and chips in favour of oven-baked fish and hand-cut potatoes lightly sprayed with oil.
• Instead of a Chinese takeaway, rustle up a quick stir-fry packed full of vegetables.
■ To start your weight-loss journey, download the free NHS weight-loss plan app at nhs.uk/better-health/lose-weight/
10-MINUTE TANGY SNACK
For a healthy alternative to biscuits or cakes, NutriLife UK founder Emma Scott recommends a super-simple nutritious nibble packed with anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils.
Salmon is packed with healthy fats – try it on rye bread
Zesty avocado with smoked salmon on rye bread (serves 1)
• Mix ¼ avocado with a slice of soft goat’s cheese.
• Season with pepper, then add the juice of one lemon wedge.
• Spread the mixture evenly on to a slice of German rye bread.
• Top with smoked salmon, slices of cucumber and a sprig of fresh dill.
■ Visit nutrilife.uk.com or, for more easy recipe ideas, download the Easy Meals app at nhs.uk/oneyou/apps/#one-you-easy-meals/
***Survey by Tonic Health, November 2020