Why bother with a balanced diet?
We hear about the importance of getting your 5 a day all the time, but is this golden rule essential, or is it more of a take-it-or-leave-it piece of advice? It might not make us popular, but a healthy lifestyle definitely classes as the former.
Yes we are aware that we sound like a nagging parent (even if we can’t convince you that broccoli will help you grow up big and strong), but incorporating a balanced diet into your lifestyle is absolutely essential.
As the winter draws in, although it may be tempting to treat yourself to endless treats and huge helpings of comfort food, we want to take this opportunity to remind you that prioritising your health is more important than ever right now.
But healthy eating never has to be boring. On the contrary, thanks to the incredible gluten-free and vegan food revolution that we’ve been experiencing these past few years, getting your hands on delicious, gut-friendly and plant-based food has never been easier. Take our recipe as a clear example of this - would you believe that you can make a luxurious Key Lime Pie minus the indulgence? To help you re-commit to improving your routine, we’ve provided you with an easy recipe for a raw, vegan, gluten-free Key Lime Pie.
We’re here to show you that just because you’re dieting, this doesn’t mean a day of celery and mushrooms. The diet options out there are of an incredible variety, and can be incorporated into your home cooking in all sorts of creative ways.
So, first up is a question which (although it might sound a little daft) is a key place to start: what classes as a balanced diet? In order to make your diet a balanced one, it will need to include food from all five of the major food groups, while still fulfilling all of your personal nutritional needs.
The five food groups are dairy, fruits, grains, protein and vegetables. The best way that you can go about getting all of the nutrients that your body needs is by eating a range of foods from each of these five groups.
By eating a balanced diet, where you eat a sufficient amount of food from each of these groups, you can give yourself a far better chance of maintaining good general health throughout your life.
You need to consume a certain amount of nutrients and calories each day, and these calories should come from a variety of sources. Meeting your required daily calorie intake on chips and cake doesn’t tick this box, however, as you should largely try and avoid foods that don’t possess any real nutritional value.
Visualising this might be helpful here - when you’re looking at your dinner plate, half should be made up of fruit and veggies, then the remaining half should be filled by grains and protein. To finish the meal, you should add a small serving of dairy. As you can see, it’s important that you keep these food types in the right proportions.
Other important tips to consider include the classic ‘eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day’. We’ve all heard that mantra before, but for good reason. You should also aim to be drinking around 6-8 glasses of water every day.
The main culprits of an unhealthy diet are fat, salt and sugar. Although you can’t completely cut these out from your food (not only would this be a completely unrealistic goal, but they are an important part of your diet), you should try to limit how much you’re eating them.
The most common problems that you’ll find in a typical UK diet are: too many calories, lots of sugar and salt, too much saturated fat, insufficient amounts of fruit and veg, and not enough oily fish or fibre.
So, to tackle these most common issues, below you’ll find a bit more information about each of the five food groups, and how you can make sure that everyone in your family gets the right amount of each in their diet.
Fruit and vegetables
Over one third of what you eat should come from this food group
To meet your quota of 5 portions, you can eat them fresh, frozen, dried, canned, or as a juice.
One portion is classed as either:
- 80g of fruit or vegetables that’s either fresh, canned or frozen
- 30g of dried fruit
- A 150ml glass of fruit juice or smoothie (but, you should only have one of these a day, because these drinks are high in natural sugars)
- 1 apple, banana, pear or fruit of a similar size
- One slice of a big, watery fruit like pineapple or melon
- 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
Grains, starchy foods and carbohydrates
A further third of your food intake should come from starchy foods.
However, where possible, you should opt for wholegrain or wholemeal sources of grains, starch and carbohydrates. These include brown rice, brown bread and wholewheat pasta. They’re filled with way more fibre, and are often far more vitamin and mineral-rich than their counterparts.
Healthy grains that should be featuring in your diet include:
- Brown rice
Milk and dairy foods (including alternative dairy products like soya-based food and drink) are rich in protein and calcium, so it’s essential that your body gets plenty of them.
In order to optimise the health benefits of consuming dairy, try opting for lower-fat and lower-sugar varieties where you can.
Protein is the substance which your body uses to constantly grow and repair itself. This essential substance comes from the foods that we eat.
Foods that are good sources of protein include:
- Pulses (including beans, lentils and peas)
In order to make the protein foods that you choose as nutritious as possible, we recommend that you always choose leaner cuts of meat. It’s best that you eat less red meat, or highly processed forms of meat (like sausages and ham).
Oily fish is a fantastic healthy option, as they contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids. You should try to have two portions of fish every week.
We hope that this guide to the key food groups, and advice about how you can best improve your diet, will help to bring a bit of clarity to your mealtimes. None of us are perfect, but by keeping ourselves more informed, making the right choices on a day-to-day basis will become a lot easier to do.
To show you that healthy eating is by no means dull, we’ve provided a fun recipe for one of America’s favourite desserts, that is completely vegan and gluten-free. It’s filled with nutrient-rich ingredients, natural sugars and no highly processed or artificial ingredients.
So, satisfy your sweet tooth in a completely guilt-free way, with our divine alternative key lime pie.
No-Bake Key Lime Pie
For the crust:
- Unsweetened shredded coconut, 35g
- Lime zest, 2 tsp
- Gluten-free oats, 65g (or you could also use finely chopped walnuts)
- Medjool dates, 12
- For the filling:
- Avocados, 2 large
- Lime juice, 60ml, freshly squeezed
- Coconut oil, 1 tbsp, melted
- Lime zest, 3 tsp
- Honey, 60ml (alternatively, you could use agave or keto maple syrup)
To make the crust, blend together the coconut, lime zest, oats and dates until it comes together. Press the crust into a pie pan, using the back of a spoon to make sure that it gets into all the ridges. Place the crust in the freezer to chill.
For the key lime filling, blend all of the ingredients together in a food processor until smooth. Spoon the mixture over pie crust. Return the pie to the freezer for around 3-4 hours to set.
With just 15 minutes prep time, you can easily whip this dessert up for an impressive centrepiece at a dinner party, or just to bring a you’ll-never-guess-it’s-healthy treat to your next family meal time.
At Smarter, we’re all about making eating well at home easy as, well, pie. Our range of intuitive technology provides users with an endless supply of kitchen and lifestyle hacks that transforms the way they cook.
So, to make meeting your healthy lifestyle goals easier than ever, treat yourself to a little kitchen update, courtesy of our Smarter product range. Our kitchen technology makes a thoughtful Christmas gift for the foodie in your life, or a wonderful way to spoil yourself this festive season. You can have a browse through our full product range via our Smarter online store.