Proper nutrition provides the energy and nutrients that your body needs. With the right nutrition, you reduce your risk of diseases, and you will feel fitter and more energetic. In general, eat lots of wholegrain products, vegetables, legumes (e.g. beans, lentils), fruits, nuts and fish. Drink plenty of water (2-3 litres a day), tea and coffee without sugar and milk. Avoid (carbonated) soft drinks (e.g. cola, energy drinks) and packaged juices.
It’s healthy to eat 3 regular meals and to avoid snacks in between meals. Eating lots of fruit and (green) vegetables reduces the risk of certain cancers and heart diseases. Eat legumes weekly, such as beans, lentils or peas. Legumes contain protein, dietary fibre, iron (reduces the risk of anaemia) and other useful nutrients needed for good health.
Pay attention to the amount of fat you eat and especially to the type of fat. Saturated fats found in foods such as sausages, bacon, biscuits, cakes and fatty sauces increase the risk of diseases. Eat foods that contain unsaturated fat, such as soft margarine, sunflower and peanut oils, unsalted nuts and fatty fish (e.g. sardines, tuna and salmon).
Too much salt increases the risk of heart disease. Beware of hidden salts in ready-made meals, sauces and snacks. Avoid sugary and alcoholic drinks as they increase the risk of diabetes, cancer and liver disease. Drink plenty of water, tea and coffee without sugar and milk. Freshly squeezed (unprocessed) fruit juices are a good alternative.
Choose wholegrain foods, such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and millet, rich in dietary fibres. Avoid products made with white refined flour, such as white bread, cookies and biscuits.
Some population groups are advised to take specific supplements (e.g. vitamins, minerals). People with insufficient sun exposure or darker skin might need additional Vitamin D for bone strength. Expectant mothers, women looking to become pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, need to take extra folic acid, possibly iron and vitamin D. And people over 50 may need extra Vitamin D, B12 and B9 (folate). In general, follow a healthy, balanced diet and carefully read the labels on supplements and fortified foods. Avoid taking multiple doses that exceed the Recommended Daily Amounts (RDAs).
There are many diet plans that promise reduced weight or improved health. Ask yourself what you want to achieve and how you will stick to the diet long-term. The most important thing is to eat a variety of foods and not too much. Some tips for healthy portion sizes are:
- A cup of fruit should be no larger than your fist.
- A serving of meat, fish or cheese is about the size of the palm of your hand.
- A portion of nuts is a fist full.
- Take just one serving of rice, potatoes, pasta or maize porridge.
- Fill up on the good stuff: green beans, broccoli, cabbage, kale or other vegetables.
Vegetarians do not eat meat for health, ethical or environmental reasons.
With a vegetarian this diet your eat more fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts, as well as eggs, dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese.
You eat less (or not at all) meat, poultry and fish.
The Keto diet is a diet that attempts to make you get most of your calories from low-carb foods, meaning your calories will mainly come from protein and fat.
With this diet you eat more seafood such as fish and shellfish, low-carb vegetables (e.g. bell peppers, broccoli, spinach), cheese, avocados, meat and poultry, eggs, coconut oil and plain yoghurt.
You eat less (or not at all) rice, maize and bread.
The DASH diet is a lifelong approach to healthy eating designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension). It emphasizes vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy foods, and moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts. The DASH diet also includes some fish, poultry and legumes. You can eat red meat, sweets and fats in small amounts. The DASH diet is low in saturated fat, trans fat and total fat.
- Grains: 6 to 8 servings a day
- Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day
- Fruits: 4 to 5 servings a day
- Dairy: 2 to 3 servings a day
- Lean meat, poultry and fish: 6 one-ounce servings or fewer a day (about 120g a day).
- Nuts, seeds and legumes: 4 to 5 servings a week
- Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings a day
- Sweets: 5 servings or fewer a week
- Limited alcohol and caffeine use.
Eating healthy, along with regular exercise (at least 30 minutes per day), helps you to manage your body weight. As a rule of thumb, a healthy weight for an adult male of 1.80m (5.11 feet) is between 60 and 80 kg. For an adult female of 1.70m (5.7 feet) height, a healthy weight is between 55 and 70 kg.
In conclusion, tips for healthy eating are:
Base your meals on higher fibre starchy carbohydrates (e.g. wholemeal bread, brown rice).
Eat lots of fruit and veg, eat more fish (including a portion of oily fish), cut down on saturated fat and sugar, eat less salt (no more than 6g a day for adults), do not get thirsty and lastly do not skip breakfast!