What is healthy eating?
Information on diet and health can be confusing and contradictory
What does “healthy eating” really mean? There is a mountain of information available on diet and health, but it can be confusing and contradictory. What you eat can either protect you or increase your chances of conditions such as heart disease and stroke.
The following tips explain the basics of what healthy eating is all about.
1. Variety is the spice of life
The key to healthy eating is to eat a wide variety of foods. Using the food pyramid as a guide will help ensure you get all the goodness you need from your food. Foods that contain the same types of nutrients are grouped together on each food pyramid shelf. Choose most foods from the bottom two shelves, smaller amounts from the next two shelves and very small amounts from the next shelf.
Foods on the top shelf are high in fat, sugar and salt, are not essential for health and should not be eaten daily.
2. Portion size matters
With more than 60 per cent of the adult population either overweight or obese, it is not just the quality and variety of food that is important; how much we eat matters too. Are you picking away at food while watching the TV or in the car? If so, you may not realise how much you’re eating. Often these foods are high in fat, sugar and calories. Check the food pyramid for guidelines on the recommended serving sizes for each food group.
3. Check your cooking
How food is prepared and cooked has a significant effect on its nutritional value. For example, to maximise the goodness in vegetables, cover them in the minimal amount of water, add a lid and cook until just tender. This will help to minimise the loss of any vitamins.
Better still, try steaming them. For tasty, heart-healthy recipes try the Irish Heart Foundation’s I Love Good Food cookbook, available from www.irishheart.ie
4. Look at labels
Food labels can be confusing. Retailers and manufacturers now provide “at a glance” nutrition information on the front of packs but this information is not consistently presented. The Irish Heart Foundation has produced a handy pocket-sized food shopping card to help you check how much fat, sugar and salt is in your food and to help you compare the nutritional content of different products. Order your free food shopping card from www.irishheart.ie
5. Don’t forget drinks