Hands-On With a Healthy Diet

Every nutritionist will tell you the same thing. You need a healthy, balanced, and varied diet. But what is a balanced diet? How much of each food group do you need? What size portions do you need? Luckily, there is a simple way to answer these questions; use your hands! By using handfuls of each type of food, it is easy to give yourself the right diet.

How much is the right amount?

If you have three meals a day, guidelines suggest you eat roughly a 2:2:1 ratio of grains, fruit or vegetables, and protein at each sitting. Using your hands, this means two handfuls of grains, two handfuls of fruit and veg, and a handful of protein (or a palmful for high-fat foods like red meat). But what food goes in what category?

Grains

For grains, think of things like bread, rice, pasta, and couscous. Wholemeal varieties have much more fiber, so try to include at least some in your diet. Also, potatoes are considered part of the grain category, even though they are not grains. Potatoes have similar nutritional qualities to wheat and rice, so are grouped alongside them.

Fruit and vegetables

Most other plant-based products come into your fruit and vegetable allowance. The trick with fruit and veg is to get as much variety as you can. You may have heard the phrase ‘eating the rainbow’ which means eating fruits and vegetables of different colors. The color tends to indicate different nutrients, so by varying your choices; you are more likely to get the nutrition you need.

Protein

All animal products come under the protein category. So meat, fish, and eggs all have high levels of protein. There are also lots of plant-based proteins such as nuts, pulses, soy, and lentils. Everyone should try and get some legumes into their diet, while meat-eaters should also try and eat more oily fish and less red meat. Also, dairy products like milk and cheese, and dairy-free alternatives like soy milk and almond milk, are all high in protein.

What else is there to know?

By adding variety to each of these three food groups, you should get most of the nutrients your body needs. The key is to choose different foods for each meal, make sure you eat both fruit and vegetables and include some whole grains in your diet.

Remembering the 2:2:1 handfuls rule of grains, veg, and protein is a great way to make sure you are eating a balanced diet. There is no need to follow this precisely for every meal though. If you are a bit short in say, fruit or vegetables,  snack on an apple between meals, or add a bit extra veg at the next meal. The guidelines are not strict. The idea is to get the right balance throughout the day rather than every time you eat.