The importance of eating well has been a central part of the human story.

Fad diets have also been around for quite a while, such as Lord Byron’s water and vinegar diet, the Hollywood grapefruit diet and the calorie-restrictive cabbage soup diet of the 1950s.

Now, however, it seems that we have started to realise that we may have been wrong all this time, and that simply a balanced diet could be the best solution against yo-yo dieting and weight regain.

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As a weight management dietitian I hear often the sentence, “Diets make you fat”. Is this true? Why is it that most people who have weight issues have a history of dieting, while people with healthier weight may have tried dieting only once or twice their whole lives?

Well, there is an explanation for that, and it’s that restrictive dieting has a negative effect on your metabolism and body composition, making it harder for you to lose weight after you’ve been on a diet.

It also creates a stronger psychological bond with your food than you might have had before the diet, turning food a naughty reward. And this is why fad diets don’t work. You can read more about the pros and cons of most popular fad diets in the NHS Choices website’s most popular diets review.

But what is a balanced diet? Could it actually be a trick name for a new fad diet?

I am sure some of you have seen The Eatwell Plate or the Food Pyramid and thought “How I am meant to follow this?” or “How is having carbs in my diet meant to make me lose weight?”

The balanced diet is a practical tool to follow the healthy eating recommendations of EUFIC (Europe), NHS (UK) and CNPP (USA).

It is a way of eating that includes all food groups and enables people from all age groups to follow, with special amendments for some life stages like childhood or pregnancy.

It is a way of eating that follows traditional food culture and provides all the nutrients in the recommended daily intake. Why does it make us lose weight?

It is the diet that gives us what we need, in the amount we need and avoids hunger and malnutrition. Most importantly it avoids yo-yoing and weight regain. It promotes slow and steady weight loss, for good!

Now that you know some of the pros, here are some cons:

– It requires patience, as it is not a fad diet; the weight loss is constant but slow.

– It is not a diet, but a lifestyle and eating behaviour change.

Key points of a balanced diet:

a balanced diet_2

1, Have 3 meals a day and planned snacks, if necessary, in order to eat every 4-5 hours.

2,  Have breakfast. This should be within 1 hour after you get up, and it can be a small thing if you are not used to having breakfast. This is necessary to avoid the starvation process and to kick-start the metabolism.

3, Drink plenty of water (4 pints/day minimum). You can add sugar free squash if plain water is not to your taste. Fresh mint and lemon are also good options to flavour water.

4, Have 2-3 portions of protein a day, one in your mid-day meal, and one in your evening meal. Portion sizes should generally fit in your hand (around 100-150g of meat or fish). You can also have ½ can of beans, chickpeas or lentils, or 2 eggs, 2 low fat sausages, 25g of nuts, tofu or other soya products.

We need protein daily and if we don’t eat it, our body breaks down muscle to obtain that needed protein, and that slows down our metabolic rate (it makes our body burn less calories).

5, Take 2 portions of dairy every day. Low fat choices will be better for your heart and weight management because dairy is high in saturated fat. Some choices are yoghurt, cheese and milk.

6, Have some starchy carbs at breakfast, again at lunch and at dinner.

7, Follow the balanced plate for lunch and dinner, unless you are trying to lose some weight, in which case try to follow the weight conscious plate.

balanced diet

8, Try to go for low calorie treats for when you want to indulge, like low fat sticky pudding or low fat Greek yoghurt with fruit.

9, Read food labels to ensure you are making the most of your food, without piling on empty calories.

10, Try to be active every day, even if it’s just going for a quick walk or for some gardening, make the most of your physical capacity.

Please do not hesitate to contact me for further information and resources on how to approach a balanced diet.

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