Getting The Balance Right

Boy balancing ball

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 Eatwell Guide

To help understand healthy eating better, study the Eatwell Guide: you may have seen it in school or in magazines.  It is a food guide that shows the proportion and types of foods that are needed to make up a healthy balanced diet. The Eatwell Guide applies to teenagers and people of all ages, people of all ethnic origins, people who are vegetarian, and people who are overweight.

The Eatwell 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's main image is divided 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.

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