With so much conflicting information out there about the best way to eat a nutritious and balanced diet, it is easy to become confused. Firstly, it is important to remember that food is to be enjoyed and not to feel guilty about.
The Eatwell Guide translates government recommendations on foods, nutrients and health into simple messages to help us make informed choices about the foods, drinks and dietary patterns that promote good health.
The Guide suggests the different types and proportions of foods and drinks to be consumed to have a nutritious, balanced diet whilst also being able to enjoy eating.
Switching to a more nutritious way of eating doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy, and you don’t have to change everything all at once. A better approach is to make a few small changes at a time. For example, adding a salad or a couple of portions of vegetables to one of your meals each day. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more nutritious choices and reap the health benefits.
One important aspect that may get overlooked when seeking to consume a ‘healthy diet’, is the need for balance, and to maintain a healthy relationship with food. Intuitive eating (1) is a philosophy of eating that promotes a healthy attitude towards food and body image and encourages people to trust their body and eat in response to internal cues of hunger and fullness. An intuitive eater is defined as a person who “makes food choices without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma, honours hunger, respects fullness and enjoys the pleasure of eating.” Intuitive eating also urges us to change our language and behaviour around food - things aren't 'good' or 'bad' for us; they're just 'foods'. Research indicates that practicing intuitive eating is associated with better psychological health (2).
There are 10 principles of Intuitive Eating and if you want to know more about this philosophy of eating, you can via these links:
(1) Tribole E & Resch E (1995) Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
(2) Van Dyke, N. and Drinkwater, E.J., 2014. Review article relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: literature review. Public health nutrition, 17(8), pp.1757-1766.
If you are concerned about your relationship with food and would like support for this, Beat is an eating disorders charity which has downloadable resources, a helpline and online support groups.
British Nutrition Foundation resources