A balanced diet includes a broad mix of foods that provide all the nutrients your body needs, and occasionally, the odd treat. It’s a ‘pattern’ or way of eating that you can stick to, in the long-term.
A fad or quick-fix diet may not provide all the nutrients you need and is probably difficult to follow in the long-term.
It takes time to change eating habits so set one realistic target at a time, practice making that change again and again and notice how it gets easier in time. Before changing your diet you should consult your doctor.
To find your balance, ask yourself the following questions and focus your attention on making one small improvement at a time where necessary.
Do you eat 7 fruit or vegetable servings every day?
A well-balanced diet should include up to 7 portions of fruit and veg a day. Eat a rainbow of different colours and types of fruit and veg over the week. They can be fresh, frozen or dried. Avoid juices where possible and eat the fruit and vegetable in its natural form.
A portion is about a handful of vegetables (80g or 3oz) or an average sized fruit. Examples include:
Do you have the right balance of fats in your diet?
To help keep your heart healthy:
Trans and Saturated fats include fried and many processed foods like cakes, biscuits, pastry, confectionary, cream etc.
Unsaturated fats, can be monounsaturated fats (for example olive oil, rapeseed oil, almonds, unsalted cashews and avocado) or polyunsaturated fats (including oily fish, walnuts, other nuts and seeds).
Do you eat more high-fibre carbohydrates and less refined carbohydrates?
Wholegrain varieties have a higher fibre content and keep you fuller for longer. Aim to include wholegrain breads, oats, brown rice and jacket potatoes instead of white bread, sugary breakfast cereal, white rice and creamy mash potato.
Some wholegrains are also prebiotics, helping to feed the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, which act as the first line of defence in the immune system.
Are you getting three servings a day?
Calcium is important for healthy bones. Choose three low fat servings each day.
A serving is:
Are you eating less processed fatty meats and including fish at least twice a week?
Try to eat fish twice a week, at least one of which should be oily (e.g. salmon, herring, mackerel, trout, fresh tuna, sardines). On other days go for a variety of proteins. Choose lean meat and trim off visible fat. Limit processed meats such as bacon, ham and sausages as these can be high in fat, additives and salt. Enjoy more plant proteins such as peas, beans or lentils, nuts and seeds.
Your blood pressure can rise as your body weight increases. Find a healthy target weight. Your doctor, practice nurse or dietitian can help you with this. Begin with a goal of losing 10 percent of your current weight.
Lose weight slowly. This offers the best chance of long-term success. Aim to lose 0.25kg (1/2 pound) to 1 kg (2 pounds) a week. There’s no magic formula for weight loss. Your goal is to eat fewer calories than you use up in daily activities. It’s best to work out a plan (combining eating less as well as being more physically active) with a health professional.
Remember to be aware of your serving sizes. It’s not only what you eat that adds calories,
but also how much.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on most days of the week. Moderate intensity exercise is when your heart rate and breathing increase and you start to feel warm. You might want to increase this if you are trying to lose weight as well. Combine everyday chores with moderate level activities, such as walking to achieve your physical activity goals. Click here to learn more about exercise to help with your blood pressure. Talk to your doctor before starting exercise if you have a health problem or are unsure.
Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. It also can also harm the liver, brain, and heart.
Alcoholic drinks contain calories, which can really make a difference if you are trying to lose weight.
If you like a drink, set yourself a goal to drink well within the guidelines.
The guidelines are:
For Women: 11 standard drinks spread out over the week, with at least 2 alcohol-free days
For Men: 17 standard drinks spread out over the week, with at least 2 alcohol-free days
What counts as a standard drink?