|By Joanne Kwok
Dietitian and Nutritionist
There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to a nutrition and diet plan that works for everyone in achieving their health goals. There are many factors that can affect how our bodies respond to food, for example metabolic rates, culture, age, knowledge of food, and your working patterns.
Consulting a Registered Dietitian is always a good starting point to help you identify barriers and come up with a personalised plan.
Having that said, our in-house Dietitian and Nutritionist Joanne Kwok explains how you can optimise nutrition in your diet with a few simple general tips.
1. Regular meals
Eating regular meals throughout the day can help us maintain stable blood sugar release, keeping us energised and our moods stable. In fact, skipping meals, do more harm than good. We tend to binge on snacks which are often high in calories in-between meals. We are also more likely to eat more at the next meal to make up for the skipped meal.
2. Balanced and Varied meals
Having balanced meals allows us to obtain adequate amounts of nutrients. Adding variety to our diets ensures an intake of all food groups. Even foods from the same food group, for example apple, orange, and banana, all of which belong to the food group ‘fruits’ provide different nutrients. Switching these up ensures that we are covered with these essentials. Including a variety of foods in our meals also keep us fuller for longer, bringing down the number of snacking throughout the day.
3. Avoid pre-cut Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables play an important part in a healthy diet, but pre-cut options are not as nutritious as we think they are. These often serve as a good grab-and-go, and comes in handy when prepping for meals. Some vitamins, however, such as vitamins A, C, E, K are very sensitive to oxidation. Once these are exposed to air and light, the vitamin content starts to decrease rapidly.
4. Methods of Cooking
In addition to air and light, heating also affect the levels of nutrients in food. Water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C get leaked into water, reducing the vitamin content in food. The longer you cook these in water, the more vitamin gets leaked into the water, meaning that you lose more nutritious bits in your food. Opting for an alternative cooking method, such as steaming instead of boiling can help maximise and retain more nutrients.
Cooking at higher temperatures, such as deep frying in oil, create particles called acrylamide. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), this is likely to be a human carcinogen, meaning that it may cause cancer.
5. Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods are indeed very convenient especially for those with a busy schedule. However, these foods such as ham, ready meals, tinned foods, and crisps are typically high in sodium. Having too much sodium also negatively impacts our health, including blood pressure, and increases our risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. In addition, excess consumption of processed meat including sausages and cured ham causes colorectal cancer, the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK.
6. Opt for Wholegrains
Refined grains are processed where the bran and germ (outer layers of the grain) are removed, stripping nutrients such as fibre, iron and B vitamins. Wholegrains on the other hand have all these intact, therefore are much higher in nutrient content. The fibre it contains keeps us fuller for longer and may also help digestion. Wholegrains do not affect our blood sugar levels as quickly as refined grains, and may also reduce the risks of developing diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers. You can adopt this in your diet very easily, for example by using wholemeal flour in your baking and choosing brown rice over white rice (the same goes for bread).
7. Adequate Hydration
Hydration is very important for our general health and is often overlooked. Staying well-hydrated helps regulate our body temperatures and keeps our organs from functioning properly. Water does not contain sugar and is calorie-free, and so should be the drink of choice as it is generally the healthiest option compared to other drinks, for example soft drinks (high in sugar) and energy drinks (high in sugar and caffeine). The Eatwell Guide recommends average adults to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid.
8. Stay Physically Active
Lastly, being physically active in conjunction with a healthy diet helps us maintain a healthy weight. It also decreases the risk of developing some health conditions such as heart diseases and stroke. Adults aged 19-64 years are recommended to do at least an accumulative of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week (such as cycling); or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week (such as running).
Click here to book a FREE virtual dietetic consultation with our Dietitian & Nutritionist Joanne Kwok.
Cancer Research UK. Available at: cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statics-by-cancer-type/bowel-cancer
International Agency for Research on Cancer (2018) Red meat and processed meat. Available at: monographs.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/mono114.pdf
International Agency for Research on Cancer (2018) Acrylamide. Available at: monographs.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/mono60-16.pdf
Public Health England (2018) Eatwell Guide.
Public Health England (2019) UK Chief Medical Officer’s physical activity guidelines.