The 5 main food groups forming part of a healthy balanced diet are:
1. Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta. This group is rich in starchy carbohydrates and also includes breakfast cereals, noodles, yam and oats and should form the basis of most of your meals. These ingredients 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 wherever you can, this helps to keep the gut healthy and also fills you up without the need to snack on sugary and fatty foods.
2. Fruits and vegetables are important sources of antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C and beta carotene (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 of fruits and vegetables each day, they do not all have to be fresh or organic and can include frozen, canned, and dried versions as well as juices.
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 fruit e.g. banana, pear, apple or orange
- 2 small fruits e.g. clementine, apricot, kiwi or plum
- 1 cup very small fruit e.g. grapes or strawberries
- 2-3 tbsp canned fruit or fruit salad or stewed fruit
- 1/2 -1 tbsp dried fruit e.g. raisins , dates
- 1 glass (150ml) fruit juice
What is a portion of vegetables?
- 2 tbsp any cooked vegetables e.g. broccoli, courgettes, spinach, cabbage, carrots, turnips, mushrooms or onion
- 1 bowl salad
- 3 tbsp any small cooked vegetables e.g. peas or sweetcorn
Milk and dairy foods are excellent sources of essential nutrients such as calcium, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, which are important for maintaining the health of your bones, skin and blood. Choose lower fat versions e.g. reduced fat milk, cheese, yoghurt wherever you can.
4. Meat, fish, eggs, beans. The main nutrients supplied by this food group include iron, protein, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium which are needed to maintain healthy blood, and efficient functioning of the immune system. Choose a maximum of two servings from this group each day from lean red meat, fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, nuts, beans and pulses. Beans and pulses such as kidney, soya, haricot, lima, pinto beans and lentils make great protein alternatives as does tofu or bean curd which has the added bonus of being an excellent source of calcium.
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. Healthy eating isn’t all about depriving yourself, it can simply be accomplished by changing your eating habits, changing the methods you use to cook and experimenting with different ingredients and flavours.