Saturday, June 18, 2011

Food Groups

Healthy eating is all about balance.  There are no good or bad foods and you don’t have to give up certain foods to eat healthily or live on lettuce.  Why? Because all foods can be included in a healthy diet as long as the overall balance of foods is right. All foods provide energy and nutrients and it is achieving the right amount of those nutrients that is important for staying healthy.The Food Groups – What Counts?
Meat, Fish, Eggs, Beans, Pulses & Nuts These foods are great for providing protein to help you grow tall and strong.   But we don’t need to overload on them to be healthy.
Bread, Potatoes and Cereals Find out more about these energy-giving foods.   Why are wholegrain cereals better for you than those that have had the fibre removed?
Fruit & Vegetables So often we are told to eat up our greens but why?   Find out more about these superfoods.
Milk & Dairy These foods are a good source of calcium.  Check out what else they contain.
Foods High In Fats & Sugars These foods have an important part to play too. But the key is keeping this stuff under control.

Getting The Balance Right

We eat food to provide us with energy to live, but the balance between how much carbohydrate, fat and protein we eat must be right for us to remain healthy. Too little protein can interfere with growth and other body functions, too much fat can lead to obesity and heart disease.
As well as energy we need vitamins and minerals.  Different foods contain different vitamins and minerals, which means by choosing a variety of foods every day you can make sure you get the nutrients your body needs.  For example, milk and yoghurt are great sources of calcium, but they contain hardly any vitamin C, oranges and kiwi fruits are great for vitamin C, but they do not provide iron, and so it goes on and on and on.

The Balance of Good Health

To help understand healthy eating better, study the Balance of Good Health diagram: you may have seen it in school or in magazines.  It’s a food guide that shows the proportion and types of foods that are needed to make up a healthy balanced diet. The Balance of Good Health applies to teenagers and people of all ages, people of all ethnic origins, people who are vegetarian and people who are overweight.
The guide is divided into five food groups:
  • Bread, potatoes, breakfast and other cereals
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Milk and dairy foods
  • Meat, fish, eggs, beans, pulses and nuts
  • Foods high in fat and/or sugar
Foods from the two biggest groups should be eaten most often, foods in the next two biggest groups should be eaten in moderation and foods from the smallest group should be eaten least often.
The guide is shaped like a dinner plate to make it easy to understand and interpret. But it is not necessary to achieve this balance at every meal; balance should be achieved over a day or even a week. The amount of food you need to eat depends on how much energy you need.  This depends on how old you are, whether you are a girl or a boy and how active you are. Some foods are a bit trickier to put into a food group; they may fit into two or three. Take pizza for example, it has a dough base with toppings. The dough base counts as a starchy food. The topping may contain dairy food (cheese) and vegetables (tomoatoes, mushrooms, pepper) as well as meat or fish (pepperoni, tuna, ham).  To achieve a better balance a home-made pizza could be made with a reduced fat cheese or less cheese and more tomato sauce and other vegetables. Including a side salad with the pizza would increase the amount of vegetables eaten, and fruit could be eaten to complete the meal.

Meat, Fish, Eggs, Beans, Pulses & Nuts

You need to eat the foods in this group to get enough protein which the body needs to grow and develop. These foods also contain nutrients like iron, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins. To make sure you don’t eat too much fat, choose leaner cuts of meat and trim off any visible fat and skin. When you cook them, bake or grill instead of frying.
But don’t forget, you do need some fat in your diet and not all types of fat are unhealthy. The fats found in olive oil, nuts, seeds and oily fish are good for you. In fact when it comes to fish, it is recommended that you eat two portions a week and that at least one of these is an oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel or sardines.

Nutrients Provided

The main nutrients provided by this group of foods are:
  • Protein
  • Iron
  • B vitamins (especially vitamin B12 from meat and fish)
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium

Practical Advice

  • Eat moderate amounts of foods from this group and choose lower fat versions where possible.
  • These foods should cover about  a third of your plate.
  • Choose lean meats and remove visible fat.
  • Take the skin off chicken or turkey.
  • Limit chicken and fish cooked in batter or breadcrumb coatings.
  • Cook these foods without adding fat e.g. by grilling, roasting, baking or in a casserole.
  • Aim to eat at least two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oil-rich (oily fish include mackerel, salmon, trout, kippers, pilchards, sardine and fresh tuna -  but canned tuna doesn’t count because the processing removes most of the beneficial oils).

If you are a Vegetarian

It is especially important if you are vegetarian to get your protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12 from sources other than meat.  Choose from the foods listed below:
  • Soya based foods including tofu
  • Beans, lentils and chick peas
  • Seeds, nuts and nut butters (like peanut butter)
If you eat these foods in combination with cereal foods (such as wholemeal bread, rice, pasta) these will provide you with proteins that are equivalent to those found in meat.
Some vegetarians still eat eggs, milk and fish. These provide a more complete form of protein equivalent to that in meat.
B vitamins can be obtained by eating fortified breakfast cereals, soya foods and yeast extracts (such as marmite or vegemite).

Bread, Potatoes and Cereals

Bowl of cereals

Bread, Potatoes, Breakfast Cereals and other Cereal Foods

Foods from this group should account for about a third of what you eat.  Include them at every meal. Regularly eating starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, rice, breakfast cereals and pasta can help keep the amount of fat in your diet in check. Choose wholemeal and wholegrain versions most of the time to boost your fibre intake and keep your bowels healthy.
It’s easy to add fat to the foods in this group; butter on bread, frying potatoes to make chips, adding creamy sauces to pasta.  Too much fat in the diet is unhealthy so keep this in mind when choosing what to eat.

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