Employee Wellbeing - Healthy Eating
This factsheet is aimed at highlighting the benefits of healthy eating and offers some suggestions to improve your diet. Benefits of eating a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet does not only makes you look good it makes you feel good too. A healthy, balanced diet may help to prevent heart disease, stroke and diabetes and it is also reported to reduce your risk of some cancers. If you follow a healthy diet the condition of your skin and hair will improve, you will have more energy and be able to perform to a higher level.
What is included in a healthy diet?
- AT LEAST 1/3 OF THE FOOD WE EAT should be fruit and vegetables. This equates to between five and 9 portions per day
- AT LEAST 1/3 OF THE FOOD WE EAT should be starch-based such as cereals, bread, potatoes, rice, pasta – try and eat wholegrain varieties as often as possible
- INCLUDE some dairy every day, this could be a smaller portion of the high fat varieties or regular portion of the low-fat options (milk, fromage frais, cheese, yoghurt)
- INCLUDE at least one portion of meat, fish, eggs and beans/peas/lentils per day. Opt for lean cuts of meat, remove all visible fat (including chicken skin) and grill where possible. Pulses are naturally low in fat and an excellent source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Aim for at least 2 portions of fish per week (at least one of which should be 'oily' (such as salmon or mackerel).
- LIMIT the amount of food and drink you consume that is high in sugar and fat. If you do fry use a vegetable oil such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive.
- REDUCE salt to the recommended maximum of 6g per day for an adult
- DRINK plenty of water (at least 2 litres per day) and avoid calorie laden drinks
Different food groups
Starchy foods - complex carbohydrates
This category should make up at least a 1/3 of your diet. Some people think eating food in this group makes you put on weight due to being high in fat, in fact foods in this category contain about half the calories of the same weight of fat. But don’t be fooled, depending what you add to the food can increase the fat content - Butter on baked potatoes and bread, high fat sauces on pasta and deep fried chips. Wholegrain food contains more fibre than white or refined starchy food and often more nutrients. Wholegrain food is also digested more slowly so makes us feel fuller for longer.
- Start the day with a wholegrain breakfast cereal (low in sugars and salt)
- At lunch time go for a filling wholegrain sandwich (don’t forget to include some salad)
- For dinner have pasta with a low fat tomato based sauce with fish or chicken
Fruit and vegetables
This category should make up at least a 1/3 of your diet. If you eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, then your chances of developing heart disease, a stroke, or bowel cancer are reduced. Fruit and vegetables are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, naturally low in fat, are filling but are low in calories. Due to the variety now available it has become easier to include fruit and vegetables into your diet.
- Have a small glass of fruit juice at breakfast time and add chopped bananas, apples or berries to your cereal (2 portions)
- A large salad or a bowl of soup with your lunchtime meal is both filling and nutritious (1 portion)
- At dinner time ensure you have at least 2 portions of vegetables, this could be as a side dish or included in the meal. Add chopped carrots, celery, peppers and onions to your bolognaise, make a meat free chilli using lots of wonderful vegetables and pulses, add spinach and okra to your curry or just add extra veg to your roast dinner.
- Replace sugary or fatty snacks with healthy alternatives - cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, dried apricots or dates, apples, bananas or pears – you will be amazed at how much more energy you have.
A healthy diet should include at least one portion of dairy products per day. Dairy contains calcium which is needed for healthy teeth and bones and is a good source of protein and other vitamins and minerals important for your health. Products in this category include: Milk, cheese, fromage frais and yoghurt. Butter and cream are not considered as dairy foods here as they are also high in fat, so they come under the fatty foods. Many dairy products now come in low fat varieties such as skimmed milk and low fat cheese so you may prefer to go for these. Try this:
- Have skimmed milk or yoghurt on your breakfast cereal
- Have low fat yoghurt as a healthy snack
- Swap full fat cheese for low fat varieties
Other protein-containing foods include meat, fish, eggs and pulses. Protein plays an important part in growth and repair of your body and also gives you energy. Some high-protein foods can also be a source of iron and vitamins, including B vitamins and vitamin D. Although we need protein in our diets to keep us healthy many people over-indulge on fatty meats (and sauces that often accompany them). When including meat in your diet always try to go for the low fat options like chicken (skin removed) and lean cuts of meat. Instead of frying eggs in high fat oil try poaching or boiling them, they are just as tasty but better for you. Lentils and beans can be added to stews and casseroles in place of meat or try a lentil curry, it’s very filling. Aim to eat at least 2 portions of fish per week and make at least one of these ‘oily’. There is evidence that eating oily fish helps to protect against heart disease. Oily fish include: herring, sardines, mackerel, salmon, fresh tuna (not tinned), kippers, pilchards, trout, whitebait, anchovies and swordfish.
- Make a low fat hummus and have it with vegetable sticks for lunch (Blend cooked chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil)
- Swap your usual lamb curry for a lentil based one
- Swap your Sunday breakfast for low fat poached eggs on toast served with mushrooms and grilled tomatoes
Fat and Sugar
You do need some fat in your diet but you need to be careful about how much fat you eat and what type of fat it is. In moderation some fats are good for us, like those found in oily fish and olive oil but others such as butter, cream and lard are bad and can lead to weight gain and heart disease.
- Swap fried food for baked, poached or boiled. If you do fry, use unsaturated oil such as olive or sunflower oil.
- Remove visible fat from meat before cooking
- Change to low fat varieties of cheese, milk and yoghurts and use crème fraishe instead of cream when cooking
- Check out hidden fats and sugars in processed foods such as cakes, biscuits and fizzy drinks
- Replace sugary snacks with nutritious fresh fruit
Too much salt can increase your risk of high blood pressure which is not good for your heart. Guidelines recommend that we should have no more than 6 grams of salt per day but our diets often include a lot more than this. Try to gradually reduce the amount of salt you use and you will find that over time your taste buds will adapt.
- Use herbs and spices to flavour food rather than salt
- Do not add salt when cooking (add a small amount at the table if you need to)
- Check out salt content in pre-bought foods – they are usually very high
- Avoid take away meals which usually have a high salt content – try cooking the recipe yourself
Many drinks (both alcoholic and non alcoholic) contain wasted calories and can add to weight gain. To avoid the added calories try and drink the recommended 2 litres of water per day, if you find this bland try adding a slice of lemon or lime and keep it in the fridge so it is nice and refreshing . Also, think about switching your milk from full fat to skimmed, it has the same calcium levels but less calories. There is some evidence that drinking 1-2 units of alcohol per day may help to protect against heart disease but exceeding this can lead to serious health problems such as damage to the liver, brain, stomach, pancreas and heart and also cause high blood pressure.
Keep a 2 litre bottle of water on your desk at work and aim to finish it before you leave
- Swap your full fat latte for a skinny one
- Change your usual glass of wine into a long drink by adding Soda or diet lemonade
- If having a drink at home use a set measure (its amazing how far out you can be when pouring a single whiskey)
If you are concerned about your weight or want to improve your diet it is recommend you seek medical advice or for further information on healthy eating visit:
I hope you have found this fact sheet useful. For further information on healthy eating workshops or any of the services offered by Work Well Hub please call us 0n: 01202 987916 or email: Hello@workwellhub.com
This fact sheet has been adapted from the NHS website – www.patient.co.uk and is for information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of information but we make no guarantee to its accuracy.