How can I ensure I'm getting a balanced diet?

Top tips from Heaths Produce, Catch of the Day and Alan Warwick Butchers

Healthy eating is not about strict dietary limitations, staying unrealistically underweight or depriving yourself of the foods you love. It's about feeling healthy, staying energetic and improving your outlook on day to day life as well as stabilising your mood. In today's society, full of health conscious bloggers and self-proclaimed experts, there seems to be hundreds of conflicting views and opinions on nutrition which can make it confusing and overwhelming to know where to start.

Here Heaths Produce, Victorian Arcade's independent fruit and vegetable store, alongside Catch of the Day fish mongers and Alan Warwick Butchers offer a selection of helpful tips and tricks to ensure you enjoy leading a healthy and balanced diet.

Set yourself up for success

Before tucking straight into your kale and bean sprout meals, think about easing into your new diet and start planning your food one small step at a time. Slowly introduce fibre to your dishes by adding a handful of nuts or lettuce and consider changing one thing in your routine daily – this will help your body adjust and will set you up for a more successful start. Preparing your own meals is also a very easy way to take charge of what you're eating as you can completely control what goes into your food. If you need to grab a bite on the go then make a conscious effort to check the food's packaging for ingredients as manufacturers often hide large amounts of sugar or unhealthy fats that you might not be aware of. 

Moderation is key

Did you know you should stop eating before you feel full? It actually takes your brain a few minutes to tell your body that it has had enough food. Try following the next few simple steps to ensure you aren't over eating. 

  1. Use small plates – A full plate sends the signal that you're eating a full meal. Using a smaller plate or side plate rather than a standard dinner plate is a popular trick to eat less without your brain noticing.
  2. Chew your food – When hungry, we can all be guilty of demolishing our food as quickly as possible however researchers suggest chewing more will help you eat less. Chewing your food helps satisfy your appetite and will give your brain enough time to process whether you've actually had enough food.
  3. Sit at the kitchen table – Often when sat in front of the TV, you become distracted and don't acknowledge how much you're consuming. Knowing when you've had enough is key; sitting at the kitchen table and taking time to savour your food will allow you to concentrate on what's on your plate. It's also a great opportunity to get away from technological distractions and catch up with your family.

Eat plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are low in calories and packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. We all know we should have our five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day but how many of us really do? In a recent survey, it was found that 1 in 4 people still don't eat any fruit or vegetables throughout the day and that most of us need double the amount we currently eat.

Again, start introducing more fruit and vegetables slowly and build up. Try eating a rainbow of fruit and vegetables every day - deeply coloured fruit and vegetables contain high concentrations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and will offer you most of your daily amount in just a few pieces.

With summer just around the corner, Heaths Produce has a delicious selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables to dive into. Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C. They provide high levels of fibre and potassium, plus they will keep you energised throughout the day. You could also try beetroot which is rich in calcium, iron and vitamin A and C - it has also been linked in the past to reducing high blood pressure and is the perfect food to create delicious juices, salads or soups with.

Enjoy healthy fats

Despite what you may have been told, not all fats are unhealthy. Bad fats such as those found in baked goods, packaged snacks and fried foods contain trans fats, of which nutritional specialists suggest that no more than two grams a day should be consumed. Eating foods that are rich in healthy fats can help improve blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease. 

Catch of the Day, Victorian Arcade's independent fish mongers, suggest eating sardines and salmon. Both are packed with high levels of omega-3 and the fresh fish will give your body the unsaturated fat it needs. You can also pick up a variety of meats including chicken, beef and pork from Alan Warwick Butchers as all of these provide a great source of lean protein to fuel your body – also perfect for building muscle in the gym.

What is the best way to get good fats into 

The best sources of unsaturated fats are fish, nuts, seeds and cold-pressed vegetable oils but how do you get these into your diet?

  • Try dressing your salad with homemade dressings - often shop bought dressings are high in calories, saturated fat or made with trans fats oils. Create your own healthy dressings with extra virgin olive oil or sesame oil. Click here for a delicious homemade recipe from BBC Good Food with added chilli for a little extra kick 
  • Snack on olives – olives are high in unsaturated fat but unlike most high-fat foods they are great for a low-calorie snack when eaten on their own.
  • Don't forget about nuts – You can also add nuts to many vegetable dishes to ensure you're getting high levels of protein.

Give it a go: With these simple tips you might find that the Monday morning blues vanish and, with your productivity at its highest, Friday will come round a lot quicker!

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