Ketogenic diets, Paleo diets, low-fat diets… The list of fad diets is endless and they
have all had their fifteen minutes of fame. Unfortunately, they are about as sustainable
in real life as they are in the media.
When it comes to such fads, if they seem too good to be true, they probably are.
While they may promise the world, they are usually unbalanced, unsustainable and
can often have very negative effects on people’s health. Many of them cut out whole
food groups, leading to deficiencies in certain nutrients, or provide far too little
energy for our bodies, which is neither safe nor healthy.
So, what really makes up a healthy diet? Time and time again, it comes back to the
good old Food Pyramid. With so much nutri-nonsense around, it often helps to get
back to basics when considering what we should be eating. The Food Pyramid is
recommended by the Department of Health, and there is good reason behind this.
While everyone has different energy and nutrient requirements based on their body
composition and lifestyle, these are the general guidelines provided for the general
population. If you are and trying to eat more healthily, it might be a good idea to see
how your diet fits in with these recommendations or where changes could be made to
Shelf 1. Vegetables, Salad and Fruit: Try to include at least 5-7 servings each
day, or more if possible. If you’re struggling to reach this, try to gradually
increase your intake by adding an extra portion to your daily routine by bringing
fruit with you to have as a snack between lectures or adding extra vegetables when
you’re preparing meals. Try to include them at each meal and enjoy a variety of
Shelf 2. Wholemeal Cereals and Breads, Potatoes, Pasta and Rice: Include 3-7
servings each day. This will vary depending on your age and activity level.
Carbohydrates can be included at each meal. Choose brown or wholegrain
versions when possible to increase your intake of fibre.
Shelf 3. Milk, Yogurt and Cheese: Aim for 3 servings per day. One serving is
equal to a 200ml glass of milk; a 125g pot of yogurt; or a 25g piece of hard
cheese. Dairy is a source of many nutrients, including calcium, protein,
phosphorous, iodine, potassium and B vitamins. If you are following a vegan diet,
try to choose substitutes which are fortified with these nutrients, or consider where
you are getting these from elsewhere in your diet.
Shelf 4. Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Beans and Nuts: Include 2 servings a day as
sources of protein in your diet. Try to include oily fish up to twice a week and
choose lean meat and poultry over processed salty meats when possible. For
vegans and vegetarians, include a variety of pulses to ensure you are meeting your
Shelf 5. Fats, Spreads and Oils: These are needed in very small amounts so try
to use as little as possible. Try to cook with as little fat or oil as possible by
grilling, oven-baking, steaming, boiling or stir-frying. Mayonnaise, coleslaw and
salad dressings also contain oil, so avoid consuming too much of these.
Food and drinks that are high in fat, sugar and salt are separated from the Food
Pyramid as they should not be eaten every day. These include crisps, sweets,
chocolate and fizzy drinks, so try to reduce your intake of these. Enjoy what you
like every so often, but just remember that everything should be in moderation!
Bear in mind that these are all general recommendations. It’s all about finding what
suits best for your lifestyle. A little guidance can go a long way, but with so many fad
diets and conflicting advice circulating around, often it can help to bring it back to
Food of the Fortnight
Avocados are such a versatile food and are a great source of monounsaturated fat
(which is considered a healthy fat). They are also a good source of potassium and
vitamin K. They are classified as a fruit, rather than a vegetable and are a tasty way of
reaching for recommended 5-7 portions of vegetables, salad and fruit. Enjoy them
mashed on toast, diced in a salad, sliced with poached eggs or mashed with salt,
pepper, garlic and a squeeze of lemon or lime to make your own home-made