Food is the substance that an organism needs for energy, growth and maintenance of body tissues. Plants, algae and some bacteria make their own food through photosynthesis, while animals and other living things obtain it through consuming other plants or organic matter.
There are many types of foods, each containing different nutrients. They include carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These can be found in animal, vegetable or mineral forms.
A healthy diet should consist of a variety of foods from all the major food groups, including fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Eat these foods in moderation and in sufficient amounts to achieve a balanced diet.
Carbohydrates provide our bodies with fuel for energy and help us feel full faster. They are the building blocks of our muscles, cells and other body tissues. They also help the body store and process nutrients.
Protein provides our muscles with essential nutrients and helps us build our bones, ligaments and tendons. It takes a longer time for the body to digest and use protein than carbohydrates, so it is important to include enough in your diet.
Meats and fish are excellent sources of protein. They also contain important vitamins, minerals and fibre. Ensure that you consume a variety of different types of meat, fish and poultry.
Eating a variety of different foods also keeps your blood sugar levels stable and your immune system strong. You should eat at least three small to moderate meals and two snacks each day. These should be well balanced, and include complex carbs, proteins and fats.
Avoid foods that are processed as much as possible, as they can be high in salt and saturated fats. Typical examples of processed foods are chips, cookies, deli meats and frozen pizzas.
Keep a cupboard filled with ingredients for simple and quick meals. This will make it easier to plan your meals and give you a choice of foods.
Prepare a stock of dried herbs and spices, curry powders and vinegars for quick cooking, such as stir-fries, curries and casseroles. These are also good for adding flavour and interest to last minute meals.
Canned and frozen vegetables are great for quick nutritious snacks. They are also easy to cook in a frying pan or saucepan and add colour, texture and flavour to your cooking.
Fruits are another great way to add a range of colours, tastes and textures to your mealtimes. They can be eaten whole or in portions.
Frozen and canned fruit is also a healthy choice, but be aware that these products often contain added sugars and syrups. Choose fresh fruit if in season.
Snacks are the perfect chance to get some extra vegetables and fruit into your children’s diet, so try to have a selection of fruit and veg on hand for them to snack on at home, or take on the go.
Keeping a fridge and freezer stocked with healthy, nutritious foods means that you have something to offer at all times of the day, and that you can avoid snacking on junk food that’s high in sugar or fat. It also saves time and money.