Everyone is looking for the perfect diet to follow, but research says one person’s perfect plate does not have to look like anyone else’s — and it shouldn’t.
Healthy eating seems to mean different things to different people. For some, it’s flavourless, tortuous to prepare or expensive. For others, it means replacing their favourite foods with something bland or inconvenient.
Research says that it doesn’t have to mean any of those things as long as a variety of nutritious foods from all the different food groups are regularly included in one’s diet. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help ward off conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers.
In fact, up to 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through your life choices and habits, such as eating healthy and being physically active.
This is very easy to understand, but sometimes hard to implement. There’s no one-size-fits-all eating plan that will work for everyone as each person has their own unique health needs, so it’s important to talk with a doctor about what sort of diet is right for you. What does a healthy, balanced diet look like?
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard work. Small changes to the food you choose, the way you cook and the way you eat can make a real difference. Nutritionists recommend eating a variety of healthy foods each day. In general, consuming a plant-focused diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and sources of protein is healthy for most people.
We’ve broken down the basics of healthful eating to help you get started.
Try to eat lots of vegetables and fruits
This is one of the most important diet habits. Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals your body needs, such as fibre, which eases constipation and aids in digestion; magnesium, which supports bone health; potassium, which helps maintain healthy blood pressure; vitamin A, which protects against infection and keeps skin and eyes healthy; and vitamin C, which aids in iron absorption and keeps your skin and gums healthy.
Fruits and veggies also help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you full longer. Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit at every meal and snack.
Choose wholegrain foods
Wholegrain foods include wholegrain bread and crackers, brown or wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal and hulled barley. They are prepared using the entire grain. Wholegrain foods have fibre, protein and B vitamins to help you stay healthy and full longer. Each part of the grain contains important nutrients such as bran, the outer layer, which contains fibre and B vitamins; endosperm, the inner layer, which contains carbohydrates and protein; and germ, the core which contains B vitamins, healthy fats, and vitamin E.
Most people should aim for at least half of the grains they consume a day to be wholegrains. Ideally, fill a quarter of your plate with wholegrain foods.
Eat foods rich in protein
Protein foods include legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, fortified soy beverage, fish, shellfish, eggs, poultry, lean red meats, low-fat milk, low-fat yogurts, low-fat kefir and cheeses lower in fat and sodium.
Protein helps build and maintain bones, muscles and skin so we
need to eat it every day. Try to eat at least two servings of fish each week, and choose plant-based foods more often. Dairy products are a great source of protein, but choose lower fat ones, and unflavoured options.
Fill a quarter of your plate with protein foods.
Limit highly and ultra-processed foods
Highly processed foods — often called ultra-processed — are foods that are changed from their original food source and have many added ingredients. During processing, often important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre are removed while salt and sugar are added. Examples of processed food include fast foods, hot dogs, chips, cookies, frozen pizzas, deli meats, white rice and white bread.
Some minimally processed foods are okay. These are foods that are slightly changed in some way but contain few industrially made additives. Minimally processed foods keep almost all of their essential nutrients. Some examples are: bagged salad, frozen vegetables and fruit, eggs, milk, cheese, flour, brown rice, oil and dried herbs.
Drink a lot of water
Water supports health and promotes hydration without adding calories to the diet.
Sugary drinks including energy drinks, fruit drinks, 100 per cent fruit juice, soft drinks and flavoured coffees have lots of sugar and little to no nutritional value. It is easy to drink empty calories without realising, and this leads to weight gain.
Avoid fruit juice, even when it is 100 per cent fruit juice. Although fruit juice has some of the benefits of the fruit (vitamins, minerals), it has more sugar than the fruit and less fibre. Fruit juice should not be consumed as alternative to fruits. Everyone should eat their fruits, and not drink them. At any time when safe drinking water is not available, quench your thirst with coffee, tea, unsweetened lower-fat milk, and previously boiled water.
Practice portion control
Portion control is when you eat the recommended serving sizes of foods throughout the day. Eating incorrect portion sizes can negatively impact weight, metabolism, hormone balance, and energy.
Practicing portion control requires mindfulness about what you are eating and how much. Understanding serving sizes can also help you structure a healthy plate consisting of half fruit and vegetables, a quarter protein-rich food, and a quarter wholegrains.
To practice portion control, look at the food label to know how much one serving is. Try pre-portioning your food into a small bowl or plate to keep yourself from overeating right out of the bag or tub. Pay attention to high-calorie foods. Nuts for example are very nutritious and have healthy fat, but they are also high in calories. Be careful with beverages, specifically sugar-loaded coffee and teas.
Boost your immune system
Yasmin Khalid, Certified Nutritionist and Head of PR and Marketing at Yakult Middle East
More than 70 per cent of our immune cells are present in our gut. That’s why they play an important role in protecting us from infections and other various diseases.
Yakult is a fermented milk drink that contains a specific strain of probiotics that is unique and only found in Yakult. This strain was discovered by Dr Shirota in Japan, back in the year 1935, and was named after him as Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota.
With many years of outstanding research, a study performed on some volunteers who consumed Yakult daily, showed an increase in their NK cells (Natural Killer cells) that is part of the immune system and responsible for fighting infectious diseases.
Through a regular intake of Yakult, you can improve digestion, prevent infection, avoid constipation and diarrhoea, fight the occurrence of cancer cells and most importantly, boost immunity.