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									Balance of good health
The Food Standards Agency has designed the 'eatwell plate' to help people get the appropriate balance of foods and
nutrients in their daily diet.




In this article
 Eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay active      Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet               Energy density
 How to eat a balanced diet                        Portion size                                       Healthy living




Eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay active
The key to a healthy balanced diet is not to ban or omit any foods or food groups but to balance what you eat by consuming a variety of foods from
each food group in the right proportions for good health.

The five food groups on the eatwell plate are:

Fruit and vegetables
These should make up about a third of your daily diet and can be eaten as part of every meal, as well as being the first choice for a snack.

You should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. Research suggests this can help to protect against cancer, obesity and
various chronic diseases such as heart disease. This is because of the unique package of nutrients and plant compounds they contain.

Bread, rice, potatoes and pasta
This food group should also make up about a third of your diet and contains the starchy carbohydrates that are the body's main source of energy.

When selecting products from this food group, choose unrefined carbohydrates over those that have been refined, as they will contain the whole of
the grain. Wholegrain foods are rich in fibre and other nutrients that have many health benefits, and people who consume wholegrains seem to
have a reduced risk of certain cancers, diabetes and coronary heart disease.

The final third of the eatwell plate is made up of three groups containing foods that need to be consumed in smaller proportions than the other two
principal categories. These food groups also contain nutrients essential to our diet, so it's important not to leave them out altogether.

Milk and dairy foods
These should be eaten in moderation because of their high saturated fat content, but they're an important source of calcium, which is essential for
healthy bones and teeth. Choose low-fat or reduced-fat versions.

Meat, fish, eggs and beans
This food group includes both animal and plant sources of protein, which is a major functional and structural component of all cells. Protein
provides the body with between 10 and 15 per cent of its dietary energy, and is needed for growth and repair.

Foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar
This group makes up the smallest section on the eatwell plate and includes foods that should only be eaten sparingly because, although they're an
important energy source, they contain very few nutrients and are often known as 'empty calories'.

Foods from this group are high in unhealthy components such as saturated fat, trans fatty acids, sugar and salt - all of which are associated with
an increased risk of developing certain diseases.

They should only be eaten as occasional treats, or to increase the palatability of other important foods (such as olive oil on salads, a scraping of
spread on bread, or a sprinkling of sugar on some tart fruits).

How to eat a balanced diet
Eat a variety of foods to obtain all of the essential nutrients
Too much as well as too little can be bad for you – balance is required
Everyone's plate will look slightly different as we all have different requirements depending on our body’s shape and size, and our levels of activity.



In this article
 Eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay active      Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet               Energy density
 How to eat a balanced diet                        Portion size                                       Healthy living




Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet
The Food Standards Agency's eight tips for eating well are:
      1.    Base meals on starchy foods
      2.    Eat lots of fruit and vegetables
      3.    Eat more fish
      4.    Cut down on saturated fat and sugar
      5.    Try to eat less salt - no more than 6g a day
      6.    Get active and try to be a healthy weight
      7.    Drink plenty of water
      8.    Don't skip breakfast




Portion size
In recent years, portions have been gradually getting bigger with the introduction of king-size chocolate bars, bigger bags of crisps and super-
sized meals.

Larger packets and plates can encourage us to eat greater quantities of food, which increases our energy intake. Studies have found that
consuming additional food doesn't increase your sense of fullness, so think of 'down-sizing' rather than 'super-sizing' for most foods, except fruit
and vegetables.

Energy density
This is the amount of stored energy in food. Just 1g of fat provides nine calories, which is more than double the calories in 1g of protein or
carbohydrate. This means you can feel fuller on fewer calories if you choose the right foods, and in the long term you're less likely to gain weight.

Healthy living
Food is there to enjoy, which is often forgotten amid all the media hype surrounding various food items. Just remember to keep a check on portion
size and energy density.

Food habits change slowly, but


           try new foods
           join a local cookery club to boost your culinary confidence
           have a positive attitude about food – it's one of life's pleasures




Exercise helps to maintain your body weight by balancing your energy intake (food eaten) with energy output (exercise).

Take small steps if you're new to exercise - use the stairs instead of the lift at work, get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way, or
try to exercise with a friend.

This article was last medically reviewed by the MRC Human Nutrition Research in July 2008.
First published in March 2001.


Adolescence
Teenagers go through many changes, and it's vital their diets keep pace with this development.




In this article
 Teenagers and diet                                  Calcium deficiency                                 Vegetarianism
 Nutrition                                           Foods to choose                                    Acne
 Iron deficiency                                     Slimming




Teenagers and diet
Teenagers' diets should sustain growth and promote good health. During this time, a number of physiological changes occur that affect nutritional
needs, including rapid growth and considerable gains in bone and muscle (especially in boys). This is also a time when teenagers begin to
develop real independence from their parents, including making decisions about the food they eat. Teenagers often choose food in response to
peer pressure or as an act of defiance against parents. It's not all bad news, as there are many opportunities to encourage healthy dietary habits in
teenagers, particularly when relating good food choices to sporting or physical prowess. Ensure there are plenty of healthy options available at
home for healthy meals and snacks.

Nutrition
The National Diet and Nutrition Survey of Young People Aged 4-18 Years provides detailed information on the nutritional intake and physical
activity levels of young people in the UK. .

The findings reveal average consumption of saturated fat, sugar and salt is too high, while that of starchy carbohydrates and fibre is low. During
the seven-day recording period, more than half the young people surveyed hadn't eaten any citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables (such as cabbage
or broccoli), eggs or raw tomatoes. The survey also showed that one in ten teenagers have very low intakes of vitamin A, magnesium, zinc and
potassium. Intake of iron and calcium was also below ideal levels among many of the teenagers. Meanwhile the rising levels of obesity suggest
many young people are eating too many calories.

Iron deficiency
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the UK. In the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, up to 13 per cent of teenage
boys and 27 per cent of girls were found to have low iron stores. Rapid growth, coupled with a fast lifestyle and poor dietary choices, can result in
iron-deficiency anaemia. Teenage girls need to take particular care because their iron stores are depleted each month following menstruation.

The main dietary source of iron is red meat, but there are lots of non-meat sources, too, including fortified breakfast cereals, dried fruit, bread and
green leafy vegetables. The body doesn't absorb iron quite as easily from non-meat sources, but you can enhance absorption by combining them
with a food rich in vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, blackcurrants and green leafy vegetables). In contrast, tannins found in tea reduce the
absorption of iron, so it's better to have a glass of orange juice with your breakfast cereal than a cup of tea.

Calcium deficiency
The survey also highlighted that 25 per cent of teens had a calcium intake below the recommended level, which has serious implications for their
future bone health.

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become brittle and break very easily. Bones continue to grow and strengthen until the age of 30,
and the teenage years are very important to this development. Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorous are vital for this process, with calcium
requirements for the teenage years ranging from 800mg to 1,000mg per day.

Calcium-rich foods should be consumed every day. The richest source of calcium in most people's diet is milk and dairy products. Encourage your
teenager to eat two to three portions of dairy food each day – for example, a glass of milk, a 150g pot of yoghurt and a small matchbox-sized piece
of cheese. If your teenager doesn’t eat dairy products, try fortified soya milk. Dairy foods are often avoided by teenage girls because of concerns
about fat content. Low-fat dairy foods are equally rich in calcium, so providing these versions to aid consumption can be helpful.

Foods to choose
Adolescence is a time of rapid growth, and the primary dietary need is for energy - often reflected in a voracious appetite. Ideally, foods in the diet
should be rich in energy and nutrients. Providing calories in the form of sugary or fatty snacks can mean nutrient intake is compromised, so
teenagers should be encouraged to choose a variety of foods from the other basic food groups:


           Plenty of starchy carbohydrates - bread, rice, pasta, breakfast cereals, chapattis, couscous and potatoes
           Plenty of fruit and vegetables - at least five portions every day
           Two to three portions of dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt, fromage frais and pasteurised cheeses
           Two servings of protein, such as meat, fish, eggs, beans and pulses
           Not too many fatty foods
           Limit sugar-rich food and drinks




Other important dietary habits to follow during adolescence include:


           Drink at least eight glasses of fluid a day.
           Eat regular meals, including breakfast, as it can provide essential nutrients and improve concentration in the mornings. Choose a
            fortified breakfast cereal with semi-skimmed milk and a glass of fruit juice.
           Take regular exercise, which is important for overall fitness and cardiovascular health, as well as bone development.



In this article
 Teenagers and diet                                  Calcium deficiency                                Vegetarianism
 Nutrition                                           Foods to choose                                   Acne
 Iron deficiency                                     Slimming




Slimming
Many studies have reported that teenagers, especially girls, are dissatisfied with their weight, and have low self-esteem and a distorted view of
their body image.

The most popular methods of losing weight are skipping meals, avoiding red meat, snacks and sugary foods, and even fasting, but these aren't
always healthy options. This is a crucial age when a nutritious diet is important - and the so-called growth spurt increases the demands for these
nutrients.

If teenagers want to slim, ensure that it's appropriate - are they really overweight or just dissatisfied with their natural body shape? If they do diet,
help them to do so sensibly. Strict or faddy diets tend to be low in essential nutrients and frequent unsuccessful dieting can lower self-esteem even
further. Sensible eating and regular exercise are the key to slimming success. Cut down on sugary and fatty foods to reduce excess calories while
maintaining nutrients.

The teenage years are a time when eating disorders can develop. If you think your teenager may have one, speak to your doctor or practice
nurse, or get in touch with the Eating Disorders Association for confidential information and advice.
Vegetarianism
Being a teenage vegetarian needn't be a problem, providing the diet is well balanced and provides suitable alternatives to meat, such as pulses
and soya products like tofu.

Meat provides protein, iron, essential B vitamins and zinc - all necessary for the growing teenager. Alternative sources include:


          Iron - fortified breakfast cereals, breads, dried fruits, beans, peas and lentils. Try to have two portions of iron-rich foods every day. To
           help with absorption, eat them with foods rich in vitamin C (for example, oranges, fruit juice, tomatoes and vegetables).
          B vitamins - if you're still consuming dairy products daily then intakes of these vitamins shouldn't be a problem. For vegans, vitamin
           B12 can be found in some yeast extracts, soya milks, breakfast cereals and TVP (texturised vegetable protein) products.
          Zinc - can be found in wholemeal breads, cereals, beans and pulses.




Acne
Contrary to popular belief, there's little scientific evidence that acne is caused or exacerbated by fatty and sugary foods. Hormonal factors are the
most likely cause.

           Key points


          Eat regular meals from the main food groups, and minimise intake of high-fat and sugar-rich foods
          Pay particular attention to getting enough iron and calcium in the diet, and eat lean red meat or non-meat iron sources and dairy
           products every day
          Maintain a healthy weight
          Be physically active

								
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