Let’s talk about food

Laughter is brightest in the place where the food is.

Irish Proverb

The British Nutrition Foundation's Healthy Eating Week encourages organisations across the UK to focus on healthy eating and drinking and physical activity, as well as celebrate healthy living.

Approximately 131 million working days are lost to sickness absence and 200,000 due to insufficient sleep in the UK each year. Additionally, around one in six employees in the UK currently experience mental health problems. Therefore, at the heart of BNF Healthy Eating Week are five health challenges:

  • Have breakfast
  • Have 5 A DAY
  • Drink plenty
  • Get active
  • Sleep well - NEW for 2019.

Let's talk about food - why is eating well important?

Eating well is not only important for looking and feeling good. Over the long term, healthy eating can help reduce your risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes and certain types of cancer.

A recent Cancer Research report found that obesity could overtake smoking as the single biggest cause of cancer in UK women in around a quarter of a century, if current trends continue as projected. For UK males this crossover is likely to occur later.

Together, smoking and overweight and obesity could cause more than 95,000 UK cancer cases in 2035 alone – compared with around 75,000 cases in 2015.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet involves eating the right sort of foods, in the right amounts to provide energy and nutrients for our bodies to function. It is estimated that an average women needs about 2,000 calories a day and an average man needs about 2,500 calories a day. The exact amount you need depends on a range of factors including, your age, sex, height and how active you are. Most adults in the UK are eating more calories than they need and should eat fewer calories.

What is healthy eating?

Everyone should aim for a well-balanced diet. Faddy crash diets may not provide the balance of nutrients you need. Try to eat:

  • Lots of fruit and vegetables – try for at least five portions a day: fresh, frozen, dried or tinned. Even unsweetened fruit juice and baked beans count as a portion but only one of your five a day
  • Starchy foods (complex carbohydrates) such as of bread, rice, potatoes and pasta (preferably wholegrain) should make up just over 1/3 of everything you eat. Choose wholegrain or wholemeal varieties of starchy foods, such as brown rice, wholewheat pasta, and brown, wholemeal or higher fibre white bread
  • Only a small number of foods and drinks high in fats and/or sugar – try to have healthy fats like olive oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oil
  • Some dairy products including milk, e.g. semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, low fat cheese, etc
  • Some meat, fish, eggs, beans and non-dairy protein sources like avocado or walnuts, sunflower seeds and oily fish
  • Choose foods that are naturally lower in fat, salt and sugar whenever you can example.  Take care with “low fat” products that may contain a lot of sugar
  • Eating too much salt can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. Adults should not eat more than 6g per day (2.4g sodium), which is approximately one teaspoon.

Tips to help with healthy eating:

  • Plan regular meals to eat more healthily and stop you snacking in between meals
  • Make sure you eat breakfast to set you up for the day
  • Portion control! It’s very easy to eat too much so check labels for recommended portion sizes and don’t go back for seconds. Try reducing the size of your dinner plate
  • Keep healthy snacks like fruit and low-fat, low sugar yoghurt nearby
  • Eat less salt
  • Drinking enough liquid is an important part of keeping healthy, so aim for around six to eight drinks a day. Avoid fizzy, sugary drinks and remember too much alcohol can be harmful
  • When shopping, take a list, check the labels and avoid tempting offers on unhealthy foods
  • Plan what you’re going to eat in advance and say no to extra salt, cheese, mayonnaise, dressings and sauces when you are eating out.

Need to lose weight? The NHS has a great 12-week plan.