Nutrition and Healthy Eating
Nutrition is the food and drink that our bodies need to work properly. Healthy eating will include all the nutrients that will help you stay well, physically and emotionally. Not all food and drink is nutritious (full of goodness), which is why we think it’s important for you to understand what is.
Food and drink contain different nutrients and there are recommended daily portions sizes to help keep your eating balanced. These are divided into:
- Proteins (2-3 portions)
- Carbohydrates (6-11 portions)
- Fruit and Vegetables (5 portions)
- Dairy Products (2-3 portions)
- Fibre (in skins of fresh fruit and vegetables and some cereal based carbohydrates)
- Fats and sugars should be limited
A typical portion would be, for example, a small chicken breast or 2 boiled eggs (protein), a slice of bread or 1 small teacup of low sugar breakfast cereal (carbohydrates), a bowl of salad or a banana (Fruit and Vegetables), a glass of milk or a 1″ cube of cheese (Dairy).
It’s vital that we eat the right balance of nutrients to function at our best every day. If we eat too much of one thing, our body can suffer and we may feel ill, tired and irritable. Here’s a portion chart (link) for you to download and use, to check whether you are eating the right amount of food. The recommended portions for healthy eating for children over 10 years old is up to the dark orange boxes, and the portions can increase to the yellow boxes if you do more exercise and need to burn off additional calories.
When we deliver our courses the session that causes the most surprise for both young people and their parents is the one around portion sizes. Even eating too much healthy food can lead to weight gain and a simple technique for monitoring portion sizes is using your hand. This is called the Zimbabwe Hand Jive.
Another way of monitoring portions is through the Eatwell Plate which was revised in April 2016 and became the Eatwell Guide (Food Standard Agency https://www.food.gov.uk/Link)
Here is a summary of the changes that took place (link)
More about fat
Not all fat is bad for us; it’s mainly saturated fat that if eaten in large amounts over a long period of time, can cause problems with such things as the movement of blood around our body, the pumping of our heart and the functioning of our liver and brain. Unsaturated fats, which are omega 3, 6 and 9, are important to our health and can only be obtained from our diet. However omega 3 and 6 should be eaten in balance with each other. Too much of either can be bad for our health and it is easy to eat too much omega 6, as it is found in grains, meat from animals fed with grains, and biscuits, cakes and pastries which use vegetable oil. .
Where can we find Omega fats?
- Omega 3 – Mackerel, tuna, sardines, salmon, , sunflower seeds, flax seed, walnuts
- Omega 6 – Corn oil, sunflower oil, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, nuts
- Omega 9 – avocado, olive oil
So we’ve told you a bit about what is good for us, but let’s see why it’s good for us.
Heathy Eating = Healthy Body and Mind
The nutrients we eat helps keep us healthy. Here are some examples:
Brain – We need lots of nutrients for our brain to help it to function properly, including glucose, which is usually converted from carbohydrates, but also lots of vitamins and minerals. For example:
- Vitamin B1 found in peas, beans and watercress
- Vitamin B3 is contained in some fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel and also in chicken and turkey
- Vitamin B5 found in eggs, mushrooms, avocados and lentils
- Vitamin B6 contained in cauliflower, cabbage, bananas, kidney beans and brussels sprouts.
- Vitamin B12 in dairy products, sardines, oysters, tuna, eggs, cottage cheese and turkey and chicken
- Folic acid in wheat germ, sprouts, asparagus, spinach and broccoli.
- Our brains also need Omega 3 and 6, potassium, sodium, niacin, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and copper.
Eyes – to promote good vision we need
- Vitamin A helps us to see in the dark. We can find it in dark green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach and in other vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, and also liver and watercress.
- Vitamin B2 is also really important to keep our eyes healthy and we can find it in wheat germ, mushrooms, broccoli and mackerel!
Hair, skin and nails – To keep hair, skin and nails strong and healthy, we need:
- Vitamin C found in lots of fruit and vegetables like broccoli, peppers, oranges, cabbage and kiwi fruit
- Biotin found in almonds, oysters, herrings, eggs, sweetcorn and watermelon
- Vitamin E contained in sunflower seeds, corn oil, wheat germ and sesame seeds
- Calcium found in cheese, broccoli, cabbage, parsley, almonds, canned fish with their bones in, prunes, oranges and pumpkin seeds
- Copper found in sesame and sunflower seeds, cashew nuts, soya beans and apricots
- Vitamin A, B2 and B5, Zinc and Omega 3 and Omega 6
Blood – Having healthy blood and a correctly functioning blood transport system is vital, so we need to ensure we eat the correct nutrients. They are:
- Iron found in parsley, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and nuts
- Copper, Vitamins B12 and E, folic acid, manganese and Omega 3 and 6.
- We also need Vitamin K found in cauliflower, brussels sprouts, peas and beans
Immune system – We need a healthy immune system to prevent coughs, colds and other infections. To keep it healthy, we should eat:
- Vitamin C and A and
- Selenium contained in herrings, molasses, mushrooms, tuna and oysters
- Zinc contained in meat, fish, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds
Bones and teeth – Keeping our bones and teeth strong is particularly important when we’re young because we’re still growing. Although exercise will help us do this, we also need to have a healthy diet and nutrients such as:
- Calcium and Vitamin C
- Vitamin D found in oily fish
- Phosphorous which is in nearly every food
- Magnesium found in wheat germ, nuts, garlic, raisins
- Manganese which is in pineapple, blackberries, raspberries and grapes and
- Zinc found in ginger, oysters, lamb, pecan nuts, brazil nuts, egg yolk, oats, peanuts, almonds.
Gut – Our gut needs to be healthy to make sure we digest our food properly and absorb all of the nutrients we’ve talked about. In particular, we need Vitamin B1 for digestion, vitamin D and omega 3 for healthy gut bacteria and Potassium to ensure our gut functions efficiently enough to get rid of waste.
Muscles – we use our muscles all the time, even without realising it as muscle is everywhere in our body, including our heart and our digestive system. To keep muscles functioning properly, we need:
- Magnesium, sodium, calcium and phosphorus and also
- Potassium contained in watercress, cabbage, celery, parsley, cauliflower, mushrooms and molasses
Heart – Our heart is one of our major organs and it keeps blood pumping around our body. Exercise helps our heart as does keeping relaxed and staying away from smoking, drugs and alcohol. Eating healthily is also a big part of having a healthy heart and in particular we need a good balance of the following nutrients:
- Calcium, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, selenium, Omega 3 and 6
- Chromium found in wholemeal bread, wheat germ, green peppers and potatoes and
- Sodium which is in olives, shrimps, ham and celery
We know you may feel overwhelmed by all of the information on this website and you’re probably wondering how you’re going to use it all. But please don’t worry, just try to make small changes every day. Try to eat lots of different types of food so that you’re giving yourself the best possible chance of eating all of the nutrients we’ve mentioned and combine this with exercise and your weight will soon start to come off. It’s also fine to eat chips sometimes or the occasional chocolate bar, as long as you eat regular balanced meals and drink 6-8 glasses of water a day, or more if you’re exercising. If you have any problems or would like more information, then please contact us.