Healthy eating

In order to survive, eating is essential. Food is essential for us and variety is the spice of life. When you put food in your mouth and masticate it, have you ever considered the consequences to your health? By eating whatever you like and not concerning yourself with consuming a nutritional, balanced diet, you run the risk of developing various diseases and health issues. To maintain a healthy lifestyle, the first port of call is to establish what is a healthy, balanced diet and sticking to it. From chewing your food to digesting it and excreting the waste, eating plays a vital role in determining your health status. A healthy person generally eats a varied, balanced diet and indulges in regular physical activity.

From advice on healthy eating to descriptions and explanations as to the processes involved in your body and how you use the food that you eat for different purposes, isn't it time you got to grips with the facts behind the food?

Locating the right foods is simple and with supermarkets offering products from countries throughout the world, you can eat a balanced diet without travelling to the corners of the earth to get them. There are lots of things to remember when considering a healthy diet. Are you getting foods from all the food groups? Are you consuming too much sugar and salt? Have you bought food that contains all the vitamins and minerals you require and are you careful not to consume over the recommended daily allowance for foods that might prove harmful to you in excess.

Nutritional supplements are available too. These provide you with your daily allowance for certain vitamins and minerals. Essential oils can also be purchased in this form. If you take a supplement, you may then eat foods that are rich in vitamin A, for example which may then exceed the recommended daily allowance, which could be damaging to your liver. You may also want to reduce the amount of food you eat that has not been produced organically. Find all the information you need to ensure you get a healthy diet that ill hep you to sustain your ideal weight and live a healthier lifestyle for longer.

Balanced diets


Balanced diets

Are you eating right and are you eating a balanced diet? Well, after all you are what you eat, so they say. So it is extremely important to eat a healthy and nutritionally valuable diet. This is true for everyone and as long as you are eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, you stand a much better chance of leading a healthy lifestyle for longer. Weight control means you can maintain your ideal weight and experience all the health benefits of doing so. Sustainable weight management is the name of the game here and it is achievable through hard work, dedication, the right attitude and eating the right foods in sufficient quantities. Eating right via a balanced diet is the first step towards sustainable weight loss and control.

One of the first things to appreciate is that eating involves consuming your meals at regular intervals, in fact we are not designed for thee main meals a day - the optimum being 5 or 6 smaller meals. However, snacking should be avoided wherever possible as this can lead to weight gain. The types of food you eat in your balanced diet are absolutely essential to helping you live a healthier lifestyle too. For example, there are some basic food groups that you must base your diet around, for a balanced, nutritious diet. In order to ensure you get access to the right blend of carbohydrates, fibre, protein, fats, sugars and salt, as well as vitamins and minerals, you need to ensure you eat the right foods in the appropriate quantities.

It's no use trying to starve yourself to help you to lose weight. You'll simply lose some in the immediate short term but pile it back on with (some extra usually) over the forthcoming weeks. Eating disorders often arise as a result of trying too hard to lose weight or because someone's perception of reality is inaccurate and they tend to view themselves as being fat when in truth they are far from it.

A balanced diet, combined with regular physical activity is the best method to lose and manage weight. You can help your cause though by eating sensibly and sometimes avoiding certain foods that you would usually consume without a second thought. Reducing alcohol consumption is a great way to lose weight and improve your health. Being generally high in calories, drinking alcohol will promote weight gain. Although there is evidence to support the theory that consuming one or two units a day can actually prevent heart disease, it is something that you might want to avoid in large quantities. Excessive drinking is extremely detrimental to your health and can cause you problems with your liver, brain, pancreas, stomach and your heart. It also results in high blood pressure.



Binge eating

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by binge eating and subsequent purging. Although anyone can develop this illness, it is most common in teenage girls and young women.

This cycle of binge eating and purging can often go unnoticed, but left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems. Common symptoms of binge eating include:

  • Avoiding eating with others
  • Disappearing to the toilet after meals in order to vomit
  • An intense dread of gaining weight
  • Frequent weight fluctuations
  • Preoccupied with thoughts of food
  • Cravings
  • Obsessed with exercise

Over time bulimia can lead to a variety of health problems. These can include:
  • Tooth decay, discoloured teeth, gum disease and bad breath
  • Patches of rough skin on the knuckles or fingers if they are used to induce vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Puffy face from swollen saliva glands
  • Frequent sore throat
  • Severe dehydration, which can lead to weakness, fainting or kidney damage
  • Inflammation of the stomach and oesophagus
  • Constipation or diarrhoea and abdominal pain
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Difficulty sleeping

Bulimia can cause serious long-term health problems if it is not addressed, including damage to the heart and infertility due to irregular periods.

Treatment includes anti-depressant drugs, education about good eating habits, and various forms of therapy. None of this will succeed, however, unless the person is committed to resolving this issue.

Eating disorder treatment

Overall, eating disorder treatment is becoming increasingly important as the numbers of people diagnosed with illnesses such as bulimia and anorexia continues to rise.

The two illnesses are quite different:

  • Bulimia is characterized by cycles of eating too much in a short period of time (binge-eating), followed by feelings of shame because of the overeating. Bulimics then find ways of ridding themselves of the food by vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, excessive exercise, fasting, or a combination of these.

  • Anorexia present quite differently. Anorexics have a distorted notion of their body shape and image, seeing themselves as too fat no matter how thin they are, and thus try to avoid or limit eating and/or over-exercise. As a result they become very underweight.

Eating disorder treatments involve a number of different approaches:
  • Healthy eating: Learning about healthy consumption patterns and sensible weight control is essential, so that patients can learn to enjoy three healthy meals per day.

  • Drugs: Drugs such as Prozac are sometimes prescribed in the short-term, and these can help reduce bingeing and purging. There is no clear evidence that they provide effective long-term help for these issues, however.

  • Therapy: There are various forms of talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which are effective. In CBT patients can talk through issues that bother them - these are often what lies at the heart of their illness.

Other therapies include Interpersonal therapy (IPT), which examines their relationships with other people, and self-help groups, which provide the opportunity to talk to other people who have been through the same thing.

Eating disorders

A range of eating disorders may result from consuming too much or too little food. We require a variety of different foods to supply us with the mix of vitamin and minerals that we need to stay healthy. Eating disorders may arise due to various reasons. These may include stress, boredom, anxiety or sadness. Sometimes people suffer serious weight loss in order to improve their image or self esteem. According to the Eating Disorder Association (EDA), such problems with food consumption may affect anyone but young women between the ages of 15 to 25 tend to experience these issues the most, although people of all ages and backgrounds may be affected. People may use food to cope with emotions and feelings that occur in their lives.

Two of the more common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Another condition, known as Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is possibly less well documented but still affects many people. Overeating can lead to obesity and I accompanied by various health risks such as diabetes and heart disease. Consuming less food and consequently less energy can lead to distorted views on food and the effects can be disastrous to health.

Anorexia Nervosa literally means 'loss of appetite for nervous reasons'. Chemical changes in the body following lack of consumption of vital foods and nutrients affect the brain and distort the perception of food. As the illness develops, people tend to suffer from the effects of starvation. Exhaustion is the most common problem. It can also be fatal, if left untreated. Effects include weight loss, constipation, poor circulation and possible osteoporosis. Children may experience growth problems.

Bulimia Nervosa involves binge eating a large quantity of food and then removing this food as quickly as possible through vomiting and sometimes laxatives, by reducing food intake or starvation or excessive exercise to try and burn off the calories that have been consumed. The effects include having a sore throat, tooth decay and bad breath caused by excessive vomiting. Poor skin condition, irregular periods and lethargy or fatigue are also symptoms of this illness. Such conditions should not be considered as weight loss alternatives as the body essentially suffers from a lack of energy and nutrients which can lead to health degradation.


Eating to diet

When eating to diet, the risks involved include consuming too little to provide your body with the energy, through calories, that it requires; you may be dehydrated; you have food intolerances; or you're eating foods that have hidden calories. Important things to remember when you're eating to diet are that you should avoid drinking coffee, increase that mount of protein that you eat as this can help to raise your metabolism, replace fatty foods with foods which contain healthy fats, be aware of hidden sugars in food and especially reduce the amount of low-fat foods that you intake when you're eating to diet as these are often replaced with salty, sugary alternatives.

Eating to diet can have its difficulties. Dehydration is a major issue and one that is often overlooked by most people trying to lose weight. It apparently takes a hydrated body eight hours to digest food and someone that is dehydrated up to twenty four hours! This accelerates weight gain. Urine is a key indicator of this as clear urine indicates good levels of hydration whereas dark urine signifies dehydration.

Weight gain is also a common reaction to food intolerances. Although they can cause health issues, they can also go undetected for long periods of time so it is important to establish whether or not you have any food intolerances by consulting your doctor or nutritionist. If you do not eat a substantial breakfast, about an hour after waking up, then your blood sugar levels will drop and you may be inclined to eat snacks that are full of calories.

Many processed or refined foods contain hidden sugar and fat. Such foods include pre-packaged meals, sugary drinks, cereals, and 'healthy' snack bars. It is also much better for your body's metabolism to eat more often during the day than just eating a few large meals per day. Eating fibre is important too as it helps with feelings of satiety and can reduce your hunger cravings between meals.


Glycemic index

The Glycemic Index (GI) can help you to determine which foods are the healthiest to eat and in what proportions. It is possible to allocate different foods a specific figure that relate to carbohydrates. The Glycemic Index can be used as a ranking of carbohydrates based on their immediate effect on blood sugar levels. a scale of 0-100 is used depending upon the rate at which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. It is a great method to assist with sustainable weight loss and control. Carbohydrates that are broken down quickly during digestion have a high Glycemic Index. The blood sugar response is high and fast. It is possible to establish exactly which nutrients certain foods contain what as well as determining which to eat in order to gain a slow and steady energy release throughout the day.

Carbohydrates that are broken down slowly during digestion release glucose into the bloodstream gradually. These have a lower Glycemic Index. High GI foods can help to replenish carbohydrate stores after exercise. Low GI foods can improve endurance and help to make you feel full up for longer. They can increase the body's sensitivity to insulin and help to control diabetes. This can mean a smaller rise in blood sugar levels after meals.

Low GI diets are very healthy and foods with a low GI include breakfast cereals based on oats, barley, bran and wholegrain bread. White bread has a high GI. It may also be advisable to reduce consumption of potatoes ad increase the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat, preferably to the extent of consuming at least five different portions a day.

The GI range suggests that low is 55 or less whereas medium GI values fall between 56 and 79 and a high GI value is depicted by a figure of 70 or more. Glycemic Load (GL) expands on GI to provide a measure of total Glycemic response to a food. To calculate the load, simply multiply the Index percentage by the number of grams of carbohydrate per serving. Use food labels to find out some of these figures. A typical diet contains anything from 60-180 GL units per day. The GL range indicates low figures of 10 or less, medium figures of 11-19 and high figures of 20 or more. Per day, a low GL is considered to be less than 80 while more than 120 represents a high GL.


Healthy eating diet

It's an indisputable fact that a healthy eating diet is essential as the food we consume has a major impact on the way we look and feel. The problem is that we live in a society where bad food choices are presented to us at every turn, making it all to easy to end up with too much of the wrong foods, such as sweets, snacks or junk food, high in fat and sugar.

A healthy eating diet takes a balanced approach, teaching you which foods will make you feel and look better, while still allowing you to fit them into an enjoyable daily routine. A healthy eating diet is based on the following major food groups: carbohydrates, fat and protein.

  • Carbohydrates are the body's number one source of energy, and should make up about 50% of your daily energy intake.

Carbohydrate can be further divided into two types, complex and simple. Complex carbohydrates include bread, potatoes, pasta, and rice. These are bulky foods, so eating them satisfies us.

Simple carbohydrates are found in fruit and vegetables, milk, confectionery, sugar and soft drinks. Eating more complex carbohydrates will result in a diet lower in fat, and higher in dietary fibre, especially if wholegrain varieties are chosen.

Fruit and vegetables are excellent choices - they are filling, low in calories and high in fibre, and can cut the risk of disease, including some cancers and heart disease. You should aim for a minimum of five portions each day.
  • Fat is essential for many vital functions in the body, but should be eaten in small quantities.

The best choices are unsaturated fats, which come mainly from vegetable and fish sources. Omega 3 fatty acids can protect us against heart disease and are found in oily fish (sardines, mackerel or salmon).
  • Protein is used to build and repair body tissues. Best choices are those low in fat such as lean chicken, fish or pulses such as beans or chickpeas.

Healthy eating plan

Many people aren't sure what a healthy eating plan is. This is perhaps not surprising given the huge variety of often conflicting advice on offer. The good news is that developing a healthy eating plan isn't complicated once you have grasped the basics.

A healthy eating plan should include the following:

  • 5 a day fruit and vegetables. Any good diet should include at least five servings of fruit and veg each day - one serving is approximately 80g, that's one medium apple or two medium plums. Ideally you should be looking to have five different types each day.

    This is not as hard as it sounds - in addition to fresh fruit and veg, the five a day can include frozen, canned, dried and pure juices. And to make it easier, this group also includes beans, pulses and lentils - even the British favourite, baked beans.

  • Bread, Cereals, Potatoes - five a day of these too. This group includes bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals, pasta, rice, noodles, oats and other cereals. As with fruit and veg, look to eat a variety each day, and watch out for heavily sugared breakfast cereals.

  • Milk and Dairy - two to three servings daily. Included in this group are milk, cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais, but not butter, eggs and cream.

  • Meat, Fish etc. Two to three servings daily, with lower fat options being better choices. Options include eggs, poultry, and meat, including items such as burgers and fishcakes. For non-meat eaters, alternatives such as nuts, tofu, mycoprotein, textured vegetable protein (TVP) and kidney beans will help to meet protein needs.

Foods which are high in fat and/or sugar should be eaten in moderation - this would include:
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Oil
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cream
  • Crisps
  • Fried foods
  • Soft drinks
  • Sweets
  • Jam
  • Cakes
  • Chocolate
  • Biscuits
  • Pastries
  • Ice-cream

Purpose of eating

The purpose of eating is to provide your body with the energy it needs to allow it to perform all the processes and functions that are required throughout any given day. If you expend a lot of energy, you will have had to have eaten enough food in order to supply your body with adequate energy levels. The purpose of eating can vary from person to person depending upon how much energy each requires for activities during each day. If you only intend to lie in bed all day, then the purpose of eating for you will be to not have to eat that much food and you can afford to go without that much food to the extent that you'll only require a small amount of energy to maintain your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

In actuality, the purpose of eating is to gain not only energy but also all of the nutrients that people require for various processes and functions that occur within the body. Essential vitamins and minerals are all accessible to you through the food that you eat so it is extremely important to eat a balanced, varied and nutritional diet. If you do no gain these essential nutrients through your food, it is possible to get them through nutritional supplements. Although this is an alternative, it is more advisable to gain them through your food.

Some people prefer to eat a lot of food even though they only require a very small amount of energy! In this event, they consume more food than they require so they have surplus of energy. This is a sure way to increase calorie intake and gain weight. Similarly, if people eat less food than they require for their daily activities, they experience an energy deficit and tend to lose weight.

If someone eats just enough food to provide them with the energy they need but they expend energy and burn calories through exercise, then they also lose weight. This is why it is so important to combine exercise with dieting when trying to lose weight.



When you're trying to lose weight, snacking can be both detrimental to your efforts as well as extremely helpful for your cause. If you eat between meals, sensible snacking can really boost your efforts to lose weight as it's a great idea to consume small amounts of low calorie content foods such as yogurts and fruit which can stave off hunger and ensure you can last until your next meal without compromising your diet plan. Snacking can also prove to be disastrous though. If you consume foods such as high calorie containing chocolate bars, then you'll not only reduce your need to eat but also ruin your diet plan.

Eating a small amount of food regularly throughout the day is recommended by such diet plans as the Slim Fast plan which endorses the metabolic benefits associated with snacking between meals. They suggest that eating up to six times each day can prevent binge eating and allow you to increase your metabolism which can help you to burn calories and lose weight more efficiently.

It is more advisable to eat smaller meals and have snacks in between as opposed to eating merely three large meals per day. Consuming healthy foods in between meals such as grain-based snacks can help you to maintain energy levels throughout the day. This can assist you with ensuring that you don't begin eating the wrong types of food to stave off hunger. Crisps, chocolate, burgers and sweets are all extremely bad for your diet and they don't provide you with the nutrients you require. This will result in you remaining unfulfilled and you'll still hunger for foods that will provide you with the vitamins and minerals you need.

There are various reasons that persuade you to snack throughout the day. Whether you're working, driving in your car or partaking in your favourite sports, you might want to have a quick bite to eat for a fast energy boost, to relieve boredom or just because you feel a little peckish from time to time. Try to eat low fat yogurts and nutritional snack bars that can provide you with some nutrients and not just sugar, calories and fat. Soup is always an excellent idea as it represents a low calorie alternative to general snack foods and can help to alleviate hunger and make you feel full.


Types of food

The types of food we eat determine much about our state of health. With online food shopping making life eevn simpler, whether it's for a snack or a main meal, the facts remain that it is absolutely essential to eat healthily. Healthy eating is one step towards sustainable weight loss and control. The types of food that are available to us via online shopping or on the High Street, are usually varied and this means that we can gain many of the nutrients and energy we require from our diet. If our diet is lacking some vital nutrients, we can still get what we need each day through multivitamins or nutritional supplements. It is the types of food that we eat that is one of the key factors in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical activity is another major factor in staying fit and healthy for longer.

Healthy eating is therefore dependent on the types of food that we eat. For example, starchy foods, fat, protein and carbohydrates are some of the different foods available to us. If we were to only eat one or two kinds, our health would probably suffer as we would fail to meet our body's nutritional requirements. We need a variety in our diet to ensure we get the right amounts of these different foods.

Complex carbohydrates or starchy foods such as bread, cereals, potatoes, rice, pasta and fruit and vegetables should provide the bulk of most meals. Starchy foods aren't fattening, as is widely believed. Adding fat to starchy foods such as butter spread on bread means they become fattier and contain more calories. Starchy products help us to control appetite and tend to contain fibre. Fibre is part of our diet that is not digested. Containing few calories, fibre fills you up without making you fatter. Helping the natural and regular movements of the bowel, fibre helps to reduce bowel problems and can be found in fruit, vegetables and starchy foods.

Most people tend to eat more protein than is necessary. Being omnivores, humans tend to eat a well balanced diet naturally so concentrating on one type of food will leave us with malnutrition and malnourishment. Meat is a good source of protein but can be high in fat. It is essential to eat a balanced diet comprising of a variety of foods to ensure you get the nutrients you require in the right proportions. Without the right mix of vitamins and minerals and energy from our diet, we tend to suffer from deficiency diseases and numerous illnesses that can usually be prevented or cured through healthy eating.


Healthy meals

There are no real set rules for mealtimes. Everyone is different and everyone has different needs and preferences, especially when it comes to eating and their mealtimes. The usual procedure is to eat food at three different times in a day. More often than not, these three mealtimes will consist of eating in the morning (breakfast), in the afternoon (lunch) and in the evening (dinner). At these intervals, you provide your body with enough calories and energy to perform all processes and functions that it needs until the next time you eat.

Sometimes though, we feel hungry between these mealtimes. In these periods of hunger, we may feel the need to eat more food. Snacking in between our main meals of the day can help us to stave off hunger but also cause us to take in too many calories and gain weight. If we choose to eat healthy snacks, however, then this can actually help us to reduce the need to eat between meals and allow us to maintain a higher metabolic rate which means we can constantly burn calories and body at a higher rate.

You should generally try to avoid eating food after dinner. This means that having had a meal in the evening, it is not such a good idea to eat anything afterwards as eating prior to going to bed will prevent you from sleeping properly. The food tends to remain in the stomach during the night undigested and can lead to indigestion.

By staying focussed on a strict eating plan of three well balanced and nutritious main meals each day and if necessary some healthy snacks in between, you provide your body with all the nutrients it requires as well as all the energy you need for the tasks you embark upon. If you choose to eat more than this, you'll probably need to exercise that much more in order to burn off sufficient quantities of calories and body fat to ensure you maintain your target weight. If you do not, you'll gain weight and likewise, if you eat less food than you require to supplement your energy requirements, then you'll probably lose too much weight! The healthiest way to live is to eat sensibly and exercise regularly.


 Printable Version