Want to live a healthy lifestyle – keep it simple!

Posted 03 August 2015

Making Sense of Sugar Admin

We’re all used to hearing phases such as “balanced diet” and “healthy lifestyle” – but these phrases can mean different things to different people.  So, here are some general thoughts to help you,

It’s all about maintaining a healthy appropriate weight by choosing food and drink which gives the calories (energy) and nutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate, fibre, vitamins and minerals) needed each day, as well as taking into account how much exercise you do. This means, if you’re very active in your day, you may need more calories (energy) than if you have a day on the couch.

Our bodies need energy to function – from walking and talking through to critical functions such as breathing and pumping blood around our body – even thinking requires energy!

No single food can provide everything our bodies need, so it’s important to choose a variety from the main five food groups– that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables; plenty of  starchy, fibre rich carbohydrates (such as wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereals, potatoes, with skins, brown rice or whole wheat pasta); some protein-rich foods (lean red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, beans or pulses); some  milk and dairy products; a small amount of foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar (sweets, cakes, biscuits, soft drinks) –  so it’s important to consider how these fit into your daily calorie intake.  Cook meals yourself when possible and get the kids involved in the kitchen.

Don’t forget to factor in what you are drinking too. Keeping hydrated (getting enough fluid) is really important but many drinks also provide calories so bear these in mind when you are totting up your daily calorie intake.

Of course, there are ‘less healthy choices’ and ‘better choices’, so it’s about thinking about your eating pattern in the round and making sure you aren’t eating or drinking too much or too little of any one food type or nutrient. Keep an eye on portion sizes too – check out the label on the pack which tells you how many portions it contains as this is a good starting point. Also, watch out for large plates or buffets – the more food put in front of us, the more we’re likely to eat it!

In fact, food and drink labels are a great place to find out information about the product – from the calories to the nutrients (food components like fat, saturates, sugars and salt) in the product. This can then help you put the food or drink into the context of your own eating pattern (see tip number 8 below)

As well as watching what you eat and drink, being physically active is also an important part of having a healthy lifestyle.  Doing some form of exercise can make a big difference. It doesn’t mean you have to be a gym bunny. Instead, maybe think about walking that short journey instead of jumping on the bus or walking up the stairs instead of using the lift.

Whatever “healthy lifestyle” means to you, try and keep it simple with these eight small manageable steps:

  • Think about portion sizes: When you go shopping, think about how much you need for the week ahead to help you from buying too much for you or your family. Checking out the label on the pack which tells you how many portions it contains is a good starting point.
  • Try and balance your plate: Bear in mind the main five food groups and try and make sure you have a good variety across your day. Check out the ‘Eatwell*’ plate for more information.
  • Stay hydrated: It’s recommended that we drink about 1.6 to 2 litres of (non-alcoholic) fluid every day** to stop us getting dehydrated. Try to drink at regular intervals through the day. A simple tip is to drink as soon as you wake up, and carry a water bottle with you to re-fill.
  • Keep a food diary for a week: It can be difficult to remember what you’ve eaten and drunk through the day. Keeping a diary will help you track your total calories, fruit and veg, fluids, treats and extras.
  • Try to cook some meals for you/the family: It doesn’t have to be MasterChef. Start simple and stick to easy recipes. Importantly, cooking for yourself means that you know what ingredients goes into your food and you can manage your portions size too.
  • Try and stay active: You can exercise without having to be at the gym. Why not walk to pick the kids up from school and stop off at the park on the way home or get off at one bus stop earlier than your normal one.
  • Check out food labels: Labels are a great place to find out information about the product – including total calories and nutritional information on fat, saturates, sugars or salt content of a product. Many also show the percentage a typical serving contributes to an adult’s reference intake (RI)*** for these nutrients.
  • Healthy eating doesn’t need to be expensive: Many shops have weekly specials on fruit and vegetables. Try to get your kids to choose something new and exciting – this could even be in their lunchboxes. They will enjoy getting involved and it will hopefully mean they develop healthy eating habits.

These are our top tips but we’d love to hear if you have your own tips which help you live a healthy lifestyle. Do let us know here

*The Eatwell Plate was updated to the The Eatwell Guide March 2016. .

***Reference Intake – the term “reference intakes” (or “RIs”) replaced “guideline daily amounts” (“GDAs”), which used to appear on food labels. As part of a healthy balanced diet, an adult’s reference intake (“RI”) for a day is 8,400 kJ/2,000kcal