Based on the guideline of the Directorate General of Health (DGS) for primary health care, learn about 10 essential recommendations to eat healthily.
It is known that inadequate eating habits, associated with metabolic risk factors, often also resulting from unbalanced eating patterns, such as high blood glucose, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides or blood pressure, are among the main risk factors that determine the loss of years of healthy and quality life and mortality.
In this sense, is the adoption of a healthy diet can be crucial to prevent or delay the onset of chronic diseases and the loss of years of healthy life.
For this reason, and based on the guidelines of the Directorate General of Health (DGS) for the promotion of healthy eating in primary health care, there are 10 practical recommendations to facilitate adherence to a healthier daily diet.
HEALTHY EATING: WHAT DOES IT TRANSLATE INTO IN PRACTICE?
Although there is no single definition of “healthy eating,” it is possible to define two main pillars on which it should be based: variety, because only then will you have access to all the nutrients your body needs to function fully; and balance, because each nutrient and food group should be consumed in proportions appropriate to individual biological needs.
Therefore, and despite the complexity of the processes inherent to changing eating habits, it is important to emphasize the importance of promoting the ingestion of foods with higher nutritional density and relevance to the proper functioning of the body, to the detriment of others rich in sugar and/or fat, salt, and high energy value.
10 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HEALTHY EATING:
1 – Eat at least 400g of fruit and vegetables per day (3 pieces of fruit + 2 soups)
Fruits and vegetables are recognized for their excellent nutritional profile, particularly with regard to vitamins, minerals, fiber, water, and antioxidant compounds, essential elements for the health and balance of the whole body.
However, they are often consumed in deficient amounts, below the daily recommendations. As a consequence, it becomes more difficult to obtain the necessary quantities to suppress the body’s needs or to obtain a beneficial effect on health.
It is therefore recommended that you eat at least 400g of assorted fruit and vegetables every day, something you can achieve by having 3 pieces of fruit (e.g. 1 at breakfast and each of your main meals) and 2 vegetable soups (one at the beginning of each main meal).
In addition, take into consideration the choice of seasonal foods, with better taste and more concentrated nutritional composition, as well as foods produced nationally / locally, to minimize nutritional losses induced by transport and storage, in addition to favoring the economy.
2- Intake whole grains
Refined cereals, in particular “white” (not whole grain) rice and wheat, used to make white bread, traditional pasta and most cookies and breakfast cereals, undergo a processing which is responsible for removing the outer layers of the grain, making them devoid of much of their fiber and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
This process makes these foods a very poor version of what the original/whole grain foods are. For this reason, you should opt for the whole grain version of the most relevant foods in this group on a daily basis, namely bread, pasta and rice.
3 – Choose healthy fats
Saturated and trans fats are the main dietary responsible for the increase in blood cholesterol and, consequently, they can have a relevant impact on the incidence of cardiovascular diseases.
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, play a protective role in cardiovascular health by favoring the increase in HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”).
In this context, you should use olive oil as the main fat for cooking and seasoning your meals, as well as eat fish, including oily fish (salon, sardines, mackerel), at least 2x/week (individual portion of 100g free of skin and bones) and oleaginous fruits (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts) and seeds, at least 4x/week (individual portion of 30g).
4 – Include legumes in your meals
Legumes (beans, chickpeas, peas) are foods rich in B vitamins, minerals, plant protein and fiber that are often neglected in contemporary diets.
In this sense, you should include 1 daily serving of legumes (25g raw) at the base of your vegetable soup or in your meal plate, as a substitute or complement to whole grains (rice or pasta) and/or meat or fish.
5- Drink more water during the day (8 to 10 glasses)
The drink to be preferred at mealtimes and throughout the day should always be water. Not only because it is the most effective way of hydration, but also to avoid the sugar and empty calories coming from soft drinks or alcoholic beverages which do nothing for the body’s health.
So make sure you drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day.
Even natural fruit juices should be limited, since they are also a source of simple sugars and usually require the ingestion of more than one piece of fruit in the meal where they are included.
6- Consume less salt
Excessive salt consumption can be one of the main enemies of your health because it can have a negative impact on blood pressure and cardiovascular health.
Therefore, you should reduce your daily salt intake to a maximum of 5g (equivalent to 1 teaspoon).
And how can you do this? During the preparation of your foods/meals, replace the addition of salt with spices and herbs, including oregano, basil, pepper, onion and garlic, and avoid processed foods and pre-prepared meals, which are usually a significant source of this element.
7 – Prepare healthy snacks
Foods such as cookies, pastries, sweet and packaged bread, juices, snacks, among others, are frequent choices for snacks and snacking during the day.
Instead of these processed foods, rich in salt, sugar and fat, whose consumption should be limited to parties or “special” social occasions, choose fresh foods with a higher nutritional density such as fruit, vegetables (e.g., carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes), nuts, non-sugary low-fat dairy products, among others.
8 -Use healthier cooking methods
As far as cooking methods are concerned, prefer grilling, steaming, or roasting and stewing with little added fat, as they imply the addition of little or no fat, as well as less significant nutritional losses.
9- Read the packaging labels
Careful label reading is extremely important for making good food choices.
Look for foods with lower sugar, salt (sodium) and saturated fats, nutrients more linked to negative impact on health, and favor those with higher protein, unsaturated fats and fiber content, which, on the contrary, are nutrients that can bring benefits to the body.
To facilitate this task, there are label decoders, both for food and beverages, which indicate whether the values per 100g of food are low, medium or high.
10 – Control portions and organize the meal plate correctly
In terms of structuring the meal, it should be noted that soup should be the “starter” of all lunch and dinner meals.
In addition, it should ensure a proper constitution and organization of the meal plate, namely its division into two equal parts, one of them entirely intended for vegetables or salads and the other half divided into two halves, one of them intended for the protein portion and the other for the carbohydrate component.
Finally, it is important to mention that besides the quality of food choices, the quantity/portions in which each food is consumed are also very important and should be adjusted to individual nutritional and energy needs (using smaller plates and cutlery can be a good help to decrease portion sizes).