You sit down with your family and friends after a long day and ask: what’s for dinner? It may seem easy to throw a ready-meal in the microwave or make a quick sandwich.
Taking a little extra time to prepare a meal is a great way to have a well-rounded, filling meal with the opportunity to try new things and socialise with others.
The Eatwell Guide
It is recommended we follow the Eatwell Guide as a general guideline for a balanced diet. Each section has been explored in articles previous, but the consensus is currently:
Fruit and Vegetables
Approximately one-third of your plate. Notice the variety. At least five portions (80 g) from a range of colourful fruit and vegetables, fresh, frozen or even canned.
Remember frozen fruit and veg retains its nutrients particularly well. You can often buy frozen products cheaper than fresh, and the cooking time could only be a few minutes. If fresh, it still might take only 10 minutes.
Steaming in a little water is recommended so the vegetables keep more nutrients instead of losing them to water in the cooking process.
“Choose wholegrain or higher fibre versions with less added fat, salt, and sugar.” Potatoes, bread, rice, and pasta are just some of the starchy foods mentioned. Pittas, wraps, and cereals are other options.
Plant-based foods like beans and pulses (e.g. kidney beans, chickpeas) and two servings per week of sustainably sourced fish (one being oily fish) are recommended.
Eggs and meat are other high-protein options. A fistful of protein, a small chicken breast, or a meat portion the size of a deck of cards is a good way of looking at adding enough protein to your plate.
At least two servings a day of dairy puts you on your way to getting enough calcium, as well as providing protein and carbohydrates. Milk may hydrate you better than water! Lower fat and sugar options are recommended.
Cheese, yogurt, and quark all count. Plant-based dairy options, lactose-free, even milk without a certain protein (A2) are available nowadays.
Shop wisely and you can find the options to suit you. Soya and almond milks might be in a specialist dietary requirements aisle – keep an eye out! Bear in mind these may have less protein than cow’s milk, though you can find fortified options e.g. vitamin D.
Sweets, Treats, and Spreads
In very small amounts – sugary, high-fat treats like chocolates, sweets, biscuits, and crisps. You’ve probably heard of the term “in moderation”.
These are best kept to a minimum; just be mindful of your indulgences. Oils and spreads should be used in small amounts, and you can choose unsaturated oils for a healthier alternative.
Six to eight glasses of water, or even sugar-free tea and coffee count towards having around 1.5-2 litres spread throughout the day to stay hydrated. Sugary fruit juices are suitable if having a small glass (150 ml).
Use the traffic-light system (top-left corner) to help. This estimates the total energy content (kilocalories), fat, saturated fat, sugars, and salt before giving a percentage based on adult reference intakes of 2000 kcal and 2500 kcal for women and men respectively.
An example of a well-rounded meal might be:
- One small salmon fillet, and a large handful each of broccoli and potatoes. Fill with flavour by adding your own herbs and spices like dill, parsley, paprika, or even a dash of soy sauce rather than dousing it in a ready-made sauce.
Here the salmon provides healthy polyunsaturated fats and omega-3s, as well as 20 g protein. Broccoli counts towards your fibrous five-a-day and potatoes provides starchy carbohydrates to help replenish your glycogen stores.
The Eatwell Guide can be found online as an interactive version. Use this to your advantage. Happy eating!