Many of the health problems today are linked to poor eating habits. Too many people eat too much saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol. Even reducing these by small amounts can make us healthier. It can help us manage our weight better and reduce our risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers and chronic kidney disease.
This is why foods that are high in saturated fats, added salt, added sugars or alcohol are called discretionary choices. They also tend to be low in fibre and important nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
These foods are important for celebrating and social occasions, but should be limited to small amounts and only eaten sometimes.
-Checking food labels
It is useful to look at the nutrition information labels on foods, and to choose those that are lower in salt,sugar and fat. The Check the label guide below shows how to check labels to see if foods are high in fat,
saturated fat, sugar or salt.
Check the label Use this information to find out if a product is
high or low in sugars, fats and salt. Compare these figures with the ‘per 100g’ figures on the food label.All measures are per 100g.
Sugars :5g or less LOW More than 15g HIGH
Fat :3g or less LOW More than 20g HIGH
Saturated fat: 1.5g or lessLOW More than 5g HIGH
Salt :0.3g or less LOW More than 1.5g HIGH
Sodium: 0.1g or less LOW More than 0.6g HIGH
-Eating less fat, and less saturated fat
If meals are based around carbohydrate foods such as potatoes, bread, pasta, rice and fruits and vegetables, it is likely that you will reduce the amount of foods high in fat and saturated fat that you have. Easy ways to reduce fat intakes are to use semi-skimmed milk
and lower-fat dairy products, cut visible fat off meat, use less fat spread on bread and in cooking, and cut down on processed foods such as meat products, take-away foods, cakes, biscuits and fried snacks.
-Eating less sugar
Sugar is not just the white crystals we put in tea and coffee. There are two types of sugar.
• One type of sugar is found naturally in some foods such as vegetables, fruit and milk. This type of sugar is not harmful to our teeth.
•The other type of sugar is the sugar that is taken out of sugar beet or sugar cane, or out of fruit, and then put back, as sugar, into other foods and drinks. This type of sugar damages teeth. Also, many of the foods and drinks with this type of sugar tend to have lots of calories (which can contribute to overweight), but they have few other nutrients.
We don’t need to add sugar to our food, or have sugary foods or drinks, as most of us can get all the energy (calories) we need from starchy foods such as potatoes, rice, beans or pasta. Our bodies break these foods down into glucose, which the body then uses to
give us a steady supply of energy. If your diet has a lot of sugar in it, you are more likely to become overweight or to have tooth decay. Most
people in the UK eat too much sugar. It can be hard to avoid having lots of sugar as it is put into many common foods.
-Some ways of cutting down on sugar
•Have fewer sugary drinks and foods. Try to have them only at mealtimes.
•Try unsweetened fruit juice mixed with fizzy water at mealtimes.
•If you have sugar in tea or coffee, try to cut down on how much you have, until you don’t have any at all.
•Instead of biscuits and cakes, try currant buns, scones, malt loaf or fruit bread.
•Add dried fruit or fruit purée to dishes to sweeten them, instead of adding sugar.
•Choose wholegrain breakfast cereals instead of cereals that are coated in honey or sugar.
•Add your own flavouring – such as chopped-up fruit, or a little honey – to natural yoghurt, instead of buying flavoured yoghurt which is often very sweet.
• Where you can, make your own food. Processed foods such as dried soups, sauces, dried rice dishes, ready meals, ready-made desserts and packaged cakes and biscuits often have much
more sugar in them than you would use in a recipe yourself. And many of these dishes are simple and cheap to prepare.
-Having less salt
Salt (sodium chloride) is essential in the diet to maintain fluid balance. But having too much salt in the diet can lead to high blood pressure, which can contribute to stroke and coronary heart disease in later life.
-How to add flavour to your food without using salt
•Taste food before you add salt when cooking or at the table. You might not need it!
•Cut down on the salt you add when cooking potatoes, pasta and rice. After a while you’ll find you don’t need to add any at all.
•Add fresh herbs to pasta dishes, vegetables and meat.
•Use garlic, ginger, chilli and lime in stir-fries.
• Make your own stock and gravy, instead of using cubes or granules. Or use low-salt bouillon.
•Squeeze lemon or lime juice onto fish and into casseroles and stews.
•Try using different types of onion – brown, red, white, spring onions or shallots.
•Use black pepper instead of salt, to season foods like pasta or scrambled egg.
•Buy good-quality fresh ingredients as they will have more natural flavour.
•Add fruit to meat dishes to give a naturally sweet flavour – for example, pork and apricots.
• When making cheese dishes, use a small amount of strong cheese rather than a larger amount of milder cheese. Add a little mustard powder to bring out the cheese flavour.