If you’ve noticed you’re lacking in energy, not sleeping properly or gaining weight—chances are you’re not ticking all the nutritional boxes when it comes to what you eat and drink. But it’s not always easy to know what makes a balanced meal. From complex carbs to natural sugars and saturated fat, here’s the full lowdown from the experts at XLS-Medical (available in-store and online at Superdrug) on the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet.
What Is a Balanced Diet?
Good question! Eating a healthy, balanced diet will provide you with all the nutrition your body needs to function at its best. This should include a wide variety of foods (and in the right amount). In case you need a refresher, here are the primary food groups and why they’re so beneficial:
– Carbohydrates: Provide energy
– Fibre: Important for digestive health
– Protein: Boosts metabolism and increases muscle mass
– Fruit and vegetables: Packed with essential vitamins and minerals
– Dairy: An easy way to get calcium and vitamin D
– Fat: Helps the body absorb vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E
What Does a Balanced Diet Look Like?
While everyone’s bodies are different, there are a few basic rules to remember when trying to follow a balanced diet.
1. Stock Up on Fruit and Veg
Yes, it may sound obvious, but getting at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day is key. Think about it like this: they should make up around a third of what you eat in a single day or take up nearly half your plate. Another good option: reach for them when you fancy a snack on the go – carrot sticks and hummus, anyone?
2. Step Up Your Hydration Game
Drink up! Ensure you’re staying hydrated by drinking 6-8 glasses of fluid – preferably water – a day. Not only does it help curb your appetite and keep you feeling full, but it also keeps skin healthy, is essential for bodily functions and regulates body temperature – to name just a few benefits.
3. Regularly Eat Starchy Carbs
Essential to every balanced meal plate, starchy carbohydrates should make up nearly one-third of your overall diet. Carbs (in foods like potatoes, rice and bread) provide a regular supply of energy to fuel the body and brain. Not all are created equal, though, so choose high-fibre wholegrain options where possible.
4. Have More Dairy or Dairy Alternatives
Milk, cheese, yoghurt (or non-dairy alternatives) are loaded with calcium, which is good for keeping bones strong. They also maintain healthy blood pressure, support brain development and reduce fatigue. However, it’s also a good idea to watch how much of these you eat since they can be high in sugar and fat.
5. Keep your protein lean
Protein-rich foods are well-known for helping to fill us up – plus, it keeps your brain, muscles, bones and many other tissues in working order. It’s also one of the best foods to eat when losing weight, as it boosts metabolism and reduces appetite at the same time. Aim to eat lean protein, like chicken, nuts or eggs with most meals, and oily fish (rich in omega-3 fatty acids) at least twice a week. But how do you navigate getting the amount of protein you need when you’re on a vegan diet? Pulses (such as beans and lentils) are a great option as they contain plenty of fibre and are low in fat.
6. Don’t Cut Out All Fats
Think a healthy diet is fat-free? Think again! Fat is an essential part of our diet, as it contains fatty acids, which the body can’t make itself. Eat sparingly and choose unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, rather than saturated options.
7. Enjoy Treats (in moderation, of course!)
Good news: a healthy, balanced diet doesn’t mean you have to give up sugary treats completely. Now and then, when you want a choccie bar or biscuit, have it!
8. Go Easy on Salt
Although some salt in our diet is necessary, it’s important not to overdo it. You’ll need no more than 6g (or one teaspoon) of salt a day; any more can raise your blood pressure. It’s not just about how much you sprinkle on meals either, and it’s best to always read the labels on food packaging as some of the saltiest foods aren’t obvious – such as pesto, shop-bought sandwiches and microwave meals.
Why Do We Need a Balanced Diet?
For Your Body & Mind
We all know that a balanced diet is good for our bodies, but did you know it can help support our mental health too? Eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential for both, from keeping teeth, bones and muscles healthy to boosting brain memory and reaction times. However, consuming poor quality calories, such as those found in refined sugars, can be harmful to the brain, affect normal function and worsen the symptoms of disorders such as depression in some cases.
To Build Your Immune System
If you’re fed up being ill regularly, there are steps you can take to keep viruses at bay. Nutrition can play a big part in keeping your immune system strong, so help your body fend off bugs, germs and severe infections with a balanced diet of lean protein, fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Vitamin A (in spinach, oily fish and eggs) can also defend against illness and infection.
It Gives You Energy
Battery on empty? Whether it’s a late-night, busy week or gym workout that’s sapping your energy, a balanced diet will help fuel you and keep you alert when you’d otherwise be lagging.
For A Better Night’s Sleep
Struggling to drift off at night? You may find that a healthy diet helps you reach the land of nod quicker and help you sleep for longer. As you’re more likely to reach for foods that are high in sugar and fat when you’re feeling tired and lethargic, chances are you’ll be able to resist those tempting sugary snacks, too. That’s what we call a win-win!
Superdrug’s Free Weight Management Service
Eating a balanced diet is easier said than done, we know! But we hope you’d now agree that it is one of the best things you can do for yourself. So if you’re embarking on your weight loss journey or attempting to make a lifestyle change with a balanced diet, don’t go it alone.
Check out the free weight management service that’s available in all of Superdrug’s England Pharmacy stores, where you can get advice, measure your weight and have your BMI checked. What’s more, you may even be entitled to a free weight management programme provided by the NHS.
Alternatively, check out XLS-Medical online at Superdrug to support achieving your healthy body goals.