We’ve all been there. You go into the supermarket with the full intention of filling your trolley with only the healthiest options, but after your usual circuit (and a couple of tempting special offers), you’re not sure you’ve made all the right choices. So, what are the healthy eating guidelines you need to know to nail that weekly shop? Let’s find out …
Step 1 of any guide to healthy eating: Know your food groups
A healthy diet is always a balanced diet – a diet with just the right amount of all the food groups. Here’s what you need to know about each one:
- Starchy foods. According to the NHS EatWell Guide to healthy eating, starchy foods like bread, potatoes, pasta, and rice should make up around a third of your overall diet. To get more fibre in your diet base your meals around wholegrain bread, whole wheat pasta and cereals, or wild or brown rice.
- Fruit and veg. Everyone knows the Five-a-Day rule, which pleads for five or more portions of fruit and veg each day. In practice, this means that about a third of the food you eat should be fruit and vegetables.
- Dairy products (and their alternatives). While there isn’t a minimum amount of dairy you need to eat every day, it does have a place in a balanced diet: products like cheese, milk, and yoghurt are good sources of protein and calcium. That said, certain dairy products such as cheese can be quite high in saturated fat so aim to buy low fat cheese and choose skimmed milk and low fat and low sugar yogurts.
- Protein. Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, and meat are all good sources of protein as well as important vitamins and minerals. The NHS guidelines for a healthy diet recommend going for lean cuts of meat and eating at least two portions of fish (one of which should be oily fish) each week. Beans and pulses are a double-win, since they also count as one of your Five-a-Day.
- Oils and spreads. High fat foods are best eaten in small amounts – that much you probably already knew. The key thing to remember is that the type of fat you eat also matters. Swapping “bad” saturated fat for “good” unsaturated fat has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels*. So, if you’re looking to lower your cholesterol levels, it’s well worth switching from butter (high in saturated fat) to vegetable-based oils and spreads, such as olive oil and Flora ProActiv.
A few other things to keep in mind
Now that we’ve talked you through some of the key points, there are a few other things we can’t leave out of our comprehensive guide to healthy eating:
- First of all: hydration. Try to drink around six to eight glasses of fluid a day. Water is the best option here (being totally sugar and fat-free) but sugar-free drinks, low fat milk, coffee, and tea all count. Try to cut down on fruit juices, and smoothies – combined, they shouldn’t take up more than 150ml a day.
- As much as possible, try to avoid foods that are high in salt and sugar.
- If you’re aiming for lower cholesterol levels, eating and healthy balanced diet and choosing foods with plant sterols in them can help**. Find out more about how plant sterols work here.
And there you have it: the ProActiv guidelines for healthy eating. With these tips and tricks, creating a balanced diet that’s tailored to your own personal needs will be a lot easier. Looking for more advice on eating well and lowering your cholesterol? Download our free Starter Kit here.
*Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats in the diet has been shown to lower blood cholesterol.