What you need to eat every day: Every day you need to eat foods from all the food groups: protein, fats, carbohydrates, dairy, fruits and vegetables.
Guidelines for healthy eating: In the USA the Departments of Health and Human Services and of Agriculture must jointly publish a report containing nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public every 5 years. The 2015-2020 Guidelines have just been published. Below is a summary of the findings. They are very simple.
Good Carbohydrates and Bad Carbohydrates: Good carbohydrates consist of nutrient dense foods such as sweet potatoes, cassava, yams, other such foods, whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Bad carbohydrates consist of French fries, chips, sweet biscuits, white rice, white bread, white pasta, pastries and desserts, soda/soft drinks and sugar.
Good Fats and Bad fats: Good fats are olive, canola and vegetable oils and fats from vegetables. Bad fats are saturated fats found in animal products such as meats, cheese, full cream milk, eggs and processed foods such as sausages, burgers, and bacon.
Where do you get Protein? Protein is obtained from both animals and plants and their products.
How good are fruits? Fruits are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
How good are Vegetables? Vegetables are a good source of vitamins, fiber, minerals as well as protein. They provide antioxidants which fight cellular damage and help prevent heart disease. Brighter coloured vegetables are higher in nutrients and antioxidants than the less coloured ones.
Fiber: Fiber is only found in plant foods. It helps to make the digestive system run smoothly and control blood sugar levels.
How much water should I drink on a daily basis? The Institute of Medicine (IOM) states that men need 13 cups (3 liters) of water daily and women 9 cups (2.2) liters. Water is the body’s chief chemical and makes up 60% of our body weight. Water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. Lack of water leads to dehydration which can drain your energy and make you tired.
How much salt/sodium do I need on a daily basis? Persons who do not have high blood pressure (hypertension) should take in no more than 2300mg (one teaspoonful) of salt/sodium per day. Persons who have High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) should restrict their salt/sodium intake to 1500mg (2/3 teaspoonful) or less per day. Nearly 50% of Barbadians fall into the hypertension category.
How much processed foods do I need on a daily basis: Processed foods such as sausages, bacon and hamburgers should be eaten in limited quantities as these are full of salt and saturated fats.
Cheese and Cholesterol: Cheese is a good source of protein and calcium but it also contains high levels of saturated fats, salt/sodium, calories and cholesterol. If you have elevated Cholesterol or Bad cholesterol (LDL) levels you should try Part-skim or Low-fat Mozzarella cheese, Low-fat Cheddar cheese, fat-free cream cheese or Feta cheese since these contain lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol. When buying cheese read the labels carefully for levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, salt/sodium and calories.
Take Away Message: Eat food from all food groups. Eat lean meat and fish. Use good oils like olive, canola and vegetable oils. Reduce frying and increase baking, grilling and broiling. Eat nutrient dense whole grain foods. Drink lots of water.
Did you know that one fried chicken leg with the skin has more fat and cholesterol than a cup of ice cream or a hamburger and dark meat has more fat than the white meat?
References: U.S Departments of HHS and Agriculture Dietary guidelines 2015-2020, Web MD