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What is balanced eating?

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

We hear this a lot don't we? But do you know what it really means, on a day by day basis? At the Mindful Eating Clinic, I believe in making healthy eating simple. You just need to create some conscious awareness of what a balanced day's eating looks like. if you can do that, it's pretty straight-forward and stress free to get the balance needed for optimum health. It's about keeping a metal note of the main food groups (and liquid) you've taken in across a day or a few days and what you might have missed out on. Sometimes missing our nutritional goals is about circumstances beyond our control, so don't be too hard on yourself. Just pick up again when you regain the control over what you eat.

Below is a handy graphic to help guide you to be mindful of what's on the plate in front of you. What's the balance of the main food groups (see below)? As you can see from my plate, plant matter should feature heavily - err on a third more vegetables to fruit. Your carbs should be wholegrain where possible and your proteins a balance of animal products if you eat meat, with plant-based protein too. Try to keep red meat to once a week and favour fish and plants as your protein sources. Some dairy on the side provides calcium and vitamin D (keep in mind the high levels of saturated fat in cheese and butter - see below about fat). My 6-eat tips free download talks about some of these general principles too.

Download this graphic here and put it somewhere handy to help you with your visual awareness. Of course, another key is to your visual balanced diet is to eat the rainbow!

All the main food groups (macro-nutrients) are important in your day. (So please ignore anyone who recommends giving up carbs!)

PROTEIN : Protein repairs the body and strengthens hair, nails, muscle and skin. It is found in animal and dairy products, pulses such as lentils and some whole grains and plants. 10-15% of your daily diet should comprise protein.

FAT : Contrary to common belief we need to eat fat! Fat helps keep the cells healthy and is used to transport vitamins from food into the body. There are several forms of fat: saturated (hard at room temperature) which we should try to limit; mono and polyunsaturated (found in oils) which are healthy fats providing us with Omega 6 – although these should still be used in moderation. We also need the essential fat Omega 3 which are found in oily fish, seeds and leafy green vegetables. The body cannot make either of the Omegas which is why they are essential to take from food. Generally fats should make up no more than 30-35% of our diet with saturated fat (butter cheese and other fats which are solid at room temperature) no more than 11%.

CARBOHYDRATES : Carbohydrates provide energy and are derived from many sources of starch and sugars. The common ones we think of are bread, rice, pasta and potatoes but there's a whole range of quality carbs we can add to our diets - oats, barley and quinoa for example. Many whole carbs provide additional protein and vitamins helpful to our mental health and nervous system. Whole carbs also add to your fibre total (see below). So, all in all, carbohydrates are essential and should provide 55% of our daily food intake.

FIBRE : Fibre is required to keep our bowels healthy and also provides important nutrients (in the skin of fruits and vegetables for example). There is also growing research of the importance of fibre for our gut and its role in improving our mental health. Government guidelines recommend 30g of fibre a day which is quite challenging at first, but it gets easier as you start to incorporate more pulses, seeds, nuts and vegetables. Here's an idea of where you can get your fibre from:

FLUIDS : Fluids, especially water help keep the systems of the body in good working order.

Lastly a word about sugar - it can be a heavy part of our carbohydrate intake but we should look to reduce it to a safe level, especially if we're looking to manage our weight Please read my article here for more information.

If you follow the guidance above and learn to be mindful of your overall diet, you will improve your health and weight management.

* All my recommendations are based on government guidelines I studied for diploma qualifications and are not designed to fix any specific physical condition.

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