Important Dietary Guidelines
One of the fundamental principles of a good, healthy diet is to ensure you’re eating a variety of foods from each of the major food groups. There are five of these groups, grouped together based on the key nutrients the foods contain.
Eat Five Vegetables
This group provides a range of vitamins, dietary fiber and other essential nutrients. But not all fruit and vegetables contain equal amounts of the same things. Orange fruit and vegetables for example contain higher amounts of vitamin C than white ones like potatoes do. Therefore dietary guidelines recommend varying the types of fruit and vegetables you eat so as to incorporate a range of colors and types, thereby increasing the range of nutrients you receive.
The recommended dietary requirement for vegetables is 5 servings daily. One serve is approximately half a cup of cooked vegetables ie peas, broccoli, spinach, carrot etc, 1 cup of raw vegetables like lettuce, cucumber and other salad vegetables or 75gms (2.65oz) of vegetables like tomatoes and potatoes. And remember to include any vegetables that are used in sauces or casseroles in the count.
And Two Fruits
On top of 5 veg, you should also be eating two serves of fruit daily. A serve is a medium apple, orange, pear, banana etc or a cup of cooked or tinned fruit. Dried fruit also counts.
Grains Are Good
Grains are one of the most important staples in a good diet. They provide essential protein, carbohydrates, fiber, B group vitamins, vitamin E as well as iron, zinc and magnesium. The grain products we consume predominantly come from oats, wheat, barley, corn, rye and rice. These are turned into products like cereals, bread and pasta. For optimum nutrition choose wholegrain products where possible.
Women should be consuming 3 to 6 serves of grain products a day and men 4 to 6. Active people may require more. Something like a slice of bread, 30gms (1oz) of breakfast cereal, half a cup of oatmeal or cooked pasta, half a bread roll etc is considered one serve.
Meat A Good Source Of Protein And Dietary Minerals
This group provides us not just with the complete protein we need for optimum performance, muscle growth and tissue repair but also with a whole range of other vital minerals like iron and zinc, vitamins and essential fatty acids. Foods included in this group are lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, seeds, nuts and legumes. Note that excessive consumption of red meat has been linked with increased risk of bowel cancer so current recommendations are that daily red meat intake should be limited to around 65gms or 2.3oz.
The ideal way to effectively utilize foods from this group is to include a variety of them in your diet. Recommended daily intake for women is 2 – 2 ½ and for men 2 ½ – 3 serves. One serve of this food group is around 65gms (2.3oz) of red meat, 80gms (2.8oz) of poultry, 100gms (3.5oz) of fish, one cup of legumes (cooked), 2 eggs and 30gms (1oz) of nuts and seeds.
Include Enough Dairy
Dairy products (milk, cheese and yogurt) are an important source of calcium as well as providing protein, iodine, zinc and vitamins A, D, B2 and B12. Dietary guidelines generally recommend consuming low fat varieties of these products where possible as they have almost the same nutritional content as the full fat versions but fewer calories.
Women should aim to include 2 ½ – 4 serves of dairy in their daily diet and men 2 ½ – 3 ½ serves. One cup of milk equals one serve as does 200gms (7oz) of yogurt or 40gms (1.4oz) of cheese.
As an interesting side note – chocolate milk has been proven to be one of the most effective post workout or post competition pick me ups!
Valuable Dietary Considerations For A Healthier Lifestyle
Achieving, and maintaining, a good healthy weight for age, size and build should be one of the most important priorities of diet. Being physically active and ensuring an intake of good quality, nutritious food and drinks to adequately meet but not exceed energy requirements is fundamental to this. Consuming excess food over and above what your body requires for energy simply leads to weight gain. In other words the less exercise you do, the less energy you expend and the less food you need to eat.
Plan to incorporate more exercise into your day if you’re not a particularly active person. Walk or bike it to the local store instead of driving. Spend less time watching TV and go for a walk instead.
We all love cakes, cookies, pies, pizzas, burgers and the like but many of these so-called discretionary or junk foods are high in saturated fats, sugar and salt. Where possible, choose polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats instead of saturated fats. Choose reduced or no salt versions of foods and restrict the amount of salt you use in your cooking and at the dinner table.
Reduce the amount of sugary drinks and foods you consume. If you have a sweet tooth, there are a number of healthy alternatives to sugar that you can use to sweeten your morning cup of tea or coffee. Soft drinks in particular are loaded with sugar and many commercially prepared fruit juices are too. If you like sports drinks and you think that by choosing these over sodas you’re making a healthy choice, think again. Sports drinks are specifically designed to re hydrate active people but if you’re not particularly active they do more harm than good. Also limit your alcohol consumption. Alcohol is one of the worse culprits for stacking on weight.
And finally, an often-overlooked consideration but a vitally important one. Food must always be prepared and handled correctly and stored safely. Common dietary diseases and illnesses are often the result of eating contaminated foods that haven’t been prepared properly or handled hygienically. Foods that are particularly at risk of transmitting food borne illnesses are raw meat, fish and poultry, dairy, eggs and foods containing eggs as well as cooked pasta and rice.
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