Five healthy food groups

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 December, 2010, 12:00am

Balwinder asks: What do I need in a healthy diet?

Wynnie says: Healthy eating is all about enjoying a variety of foods and not about forcing yourself to eat bland, tasteless or boring foods. Anything can be eaten as part of a healthy diet. The key is getting the balance right.

Following a balanced and varied diet, which includes foods from the five main food groups, means that you will be able to meet all of your daily requirements for essential nutrients and also maintain optimal health.

So what is a healthy diet?

A healthy, balanced diet consists of five basic food groups. These are:

1 Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta. This group, rich in starchy carbohydrates, also includes breakfast cereals, noodles, yam and oats. It should form the basis of most of your meals. These foods are rich sources of insoluble fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins, which are needed to keep your gut, bones and blood healthy. Try to eat wholegrain, wholemeal or high-fibre versions, which help keep the gut healthy and fill you up without the need to snack.

2 Fruits and vegetables. These are important sources of antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C and beta-carotene (the vegetable equivalent of vitamin A), which protect us from life-threatening diseases like cancers and heart disease. Fruits and vegetables are also rich in soluble fibre, which can help to reduce blood cholesterol. Try to include five portions each day; they can be frozen, canned or dried versions, and one portion a day can be juice.

What is a portion of fruit?

1 slice of a very large fruit, such as a melon or pineapple; 1/2 avocado or grapefruit; 1 medium-sized fruit - banana, pear, apple or orange; 2 small fruits - clementine, apricot, kiwi or plum; 1 cup very small fruit - grapes, berries; 2-3 tbsp canned fruit or fruit salad or stewed fruit; 1/2 -1 tbsp dried fruit - raisins, dates; 1 glass (150ml) fruit juice

What is a portion of vegetables?

2 tbsp any cooked vegetables - broccoli, courgettes, spinach, cabbage, carrots, turnips, mushrooms or onion; 1 bowl salad; 3 tbsp of any small cooked vegetables, such as peas or sweetcorn.

3 Milk and dairy foods. These foods are excellent sources of essential nutrients such as calcium, protein, and vitamins A, D and B12 which are important for maintaining the health of your bones, skin and blood. Pick lower-fat versions, e.g. reduced fat milk, cheese, yoghurt, whenever you can.

4 Meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans. The main nutrients from this food group include iron, protein, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium, which help to maintain healthy blood, and ensure your immune system works. Eat up to two servings every day of lean red meat, fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, nuts, beans and pulses.

Beans and pulses, plus tofu and beancurd (a great source of calcium), are all good protein alternatives.

5 Foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar. Try to keep foods such as savoury snacks, biscuits, cakes, crisps, pastries, sweets, chocolate, pies, butter and carbonated drinks to a minimum.

Balwinder's diary

Everyday foods: Bread, cereals, biscuits, chicken curry, rice, chapati, fruits, veggies, yoghurt

Everyday drinks: Tea, water, coke, orange juice

Everyday exercise: Walking, basketball