Give yourself a number on a scale of 1-10, of how healthy you think you are, food wise. If you think everything you eat is 100% spot on, go for 10. If you're a member of the burger club, it'd be much less! Remember that number.
Guidelines (here in the UK at least, but I think they're a good pointer) detail 5 things you should be doing every day to maximise the health benefits you get from your food. These are:
- Eating a variety of 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.
- Drinking 6-8 200ml glasses of water (or other fluids) a day.
- Eating 2 portions of lean protein a day (meat, poultry, fish, beans, pulses, dairy).
- Eating 2 portions of wholegrains a day (fibre-rich foods such as wholemeal pasta and rice, wholegrain cereals, wholemeal bread).
- Consuming 2 portions of dairy a day (especially important for women).
There are also things you should be cutting down or restricting your intake of:
- Salt. No more than 6g a day.
- Alcohol. Your intake should not regularly exceed 2-3 units per day for women, 3-4 for men. See here for a guide to alcohol units.
- Refined sugars. These contain no nutritional benefit, other than calories!
Now start from 0 and give yourself a point for each of the following:
- 3 or 4 portions of fruit and veg
- 5+ portions of fruit and veg
- 6 or 7 glasses of water a day (1200-1400ml)
- 8+ glasses of water a day (1600ml +)
- 1 portion of lean protein (a portion is equivalent to a peice of meat or fish the size of a pack of playing cards, two eggs, four tablespoons of lentils or beans, 100g cottage cheese)
- 2 portions of lean protein
- 1 portion of wholegrain (a portion can be 3 heaped tbsps wholegrain breakfast cereal, 1 heaped tbsp uncooked porridge oats, 1 medium slice wholemeal bread, 1 small wholemeal roll, 2 heaped tbsps cooked brown rice,2 heaped tbsps cooked wild rice, 3 heaped tbsps cooked brown pasta, ½ wholemeal pitta bread or 2 rye crispbreads)
- 2 portions of wholegrain
- 1 portion of dairy (a medium-size glass of milk, a small pot of yoghurt, or a small matchbox-sized piece of cheese)
- 2 portions of dairy
Now take off a point if you:
- Consume too much salt
- Consume more than the recommended amount of alcohol regularly
- Consume too much processed sugar (use your own judgement as to what is too much!)
So, what was your "score"? Was it higher or lower than you initially thought? Initially, I thought I was around a 6 or 7, but actually it's higher than that. I always without fail get my 5 a day now, and usually by lunchtime. I've got the water nailed, at 2 litres a day. I always get at least 1 portion of protein and dairy, and my wholegrain intake is good. I didn't have to take off any points either, leaving me with a score of 8 or 9 (most days!). I don't always get enough dairy, and sometimes protein, but I think I'm doing all right! Food for thought.
If you can get all that within your calorie "budget", then you can officially say you're healthy! Of course, you need to add in exercise/activity, not smoke, do anything else remotely risky and factor in any medical conditions! This healthy business is a full time job!