Food is an important part of our lifestyle. A healthy diet involves not eating too much or too little and consists mainly of vegetables and a few animal products. A healthy menu is rich in vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, fish, whole grains, contains enough low-fat dairy products, and is low in red and processed meat, alcohol and sugary drinks, salt and saturated fatty acids.
Plenty of fruit and vegetables
Eating a minimum of 250 grams of vegetables and 200 grams of fruit (2 pieces per day) every day is very healthy. Fruit and vegetables contain important vitamins, minerals and fibres. Eating enough fruit and vegetables reduces the risk of certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Tips to eat more vegetables:
- Alternate between different fruits and vegetables. Each fruit and vegetable contains different types of nutrients in different amounts. By alternating, you will consume different types of nutrients.
- Add fruit and vegetables to your lunch. For example, make a lunch salad, make a vegetable omelette or put some slices of tomato on your cheese sandwich.
- Eat more fruit and vegetables as a snack.
Mainly eat whole grain products
Opt for whole grain products, such as whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, whole grain couscous and brown rice. Whole grain products are rich in slow carbohydrates, dietary fibre (which stimulates healthy intestinal function) and various minerals and vitamins. Whole grain products also make you feel full. Fibre in whole grain products swells up in your stomach and intestines, making you feel satiated faster and longer than the non-whole grain variations.
In addition, whole grain products can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and certain cardiovascular diseases.
Try not to eat too many products made from white wheat flour, such as white bread, cookies, biscuits and pretzels. These are carbohydrate-rich products that provide you with few nutrients.
Eat legumes every week
The Nutrition Centre advises eating legumes – such as kidney beans, soybeans, lentils or chickpeas – once a week. Legumes are rich in protein, dietary fibre, iron and other important nutrients. On the day you include legumes in your diet, you do not have to eat meat.
Pay attention to the type of fat
Your body needs fats. They are a source of energy, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and important fatty acids. Do not solely pay attention to the amount of fat in your diet, but especially consider the type of fat.
You have two types of fat: unsaturated and saturated fat. Unsaturated fatty acids lower the (bad) LDL cholesterol. Saturated fatty acids (and trans-fats) increase LDL cholesterol in the blood. Too much LDL cholesterol in your blood is bad for your blood vessels and can lead to cardiovascular disease
Therefore, it is important to choose products that contain unsaturated fat, such as soft margarine, vegetable oils and liquid cooking products. Fish and unsalted nuts also contain a lot of unsaturated fatty acids. Think of walnuts, almonds and peanuts.
Choose products with as little saturated fat and trans-fat as possible. For example, products such as processed meats (e.g., sausage and bacon), snacks such as cakes and biscuits, and ready-to-eat products (such as sauces and ready-to-eat meals). Instead, opt for lean and unprocessed meats (such as chicken and lean ground beef).
It’s okay to eat dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese). They keep you healthy. The Netherlands Nutrition Centre advises not to buy full-fat dairy products, but to go for semi-skimmed or low-fat dairy products instead.
Watch your salt intake
All food naturally contains a little bit of salt. Therefore, adding salt is often unnecessary. Flavour your food with other seasonings, such as (fresh) herbs and spices. The advice is not to eat more than 6 grams of salt per day. Eating too much salt increases your blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease.
Look for hidden salt (and fat and sugar) in ready-to-eat meals, sauces, and snacks. Do you want to know how much salt there is in a product? Then look at the label on the packaging.
Choose drinks without sugar
You need about 1.5 litres of water daily. Drinking enough water is important for your intestines to function properly, among other things. Your intestines need moisture to swell, which helps your bowel movements. It is best to drink water, tea and coffee without sugar, because these drinks do not contain extra calories.
Be aware of the maximum recommended daily coffee intake. Drinking more than 4 cups of coffee a day can have a bad effect on your body. It can lead to an excessive amount of caffeine. When you drink coffee, try to drink filtered coffee (filter coffee, coffee pods, instant coffee). The more the coffee is filtered, the less cafestol it contains. Cafestol increases LDL cholesterol.
If you drink tea in addition to enough water, go for green, black or herbal tea. Herbal tea is the healthiest option, as it does not contain caffeine.
It is important not to consume any or only a few sugary drinks. Think of fruit juice, soft drinks or sports drinks. which are often loaded with added sugars.
Alcohol is not the healthiest option. Do you drink alcohol? Do not drink more than one glass of alcohol a day and ensure that you do not drink alcohol every day. Drinking one glass of alcohol every day can already be harmful to your health. Try refraining from drinking alcohol at least two days a week. This will prevent drinking alcohol from becoming a habit.
Eat more vegetables
Scientific research has shown that eating red meat – especially processed meat – can increase the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes and strokes. Therefore, eat meat in moderation and opt for plant-based food more often.
Eat a handful of nuts every day
The Nutrition Centre advises to eat unsalted nuts every day. Unsalted nuts and peanuts have a positive effect on your health and contain a lot of saturated fat and important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B1, vitamin E and iron.
All unsalted nuts and peanuts are good for you, both unroasted and roasted. Nut butters and peanut butter a 100% made of nuts are healthy, too.
Eat fish once a week
The fatty acids in fish are good for your heart and blood vessels. Therefore, eat fish once a week. Preferably choose oily fish; mackerel, herring, sardines or salmon.
Do not eat throughout the whole day
Three healthy and varied meals a day are a good foundation for providing your body with all the nutrients it needs. Eat a maximum of 4 snacks in between.
How does eating too little affect your daily functioning and well-being?
Skipping a meal can cause your blood levels to fluctuate drastically and your sugar levels to peak and fall, which has an influence on your mood.
Healthy and a sufficient amount of food is also important for your mental well-being. Eating less than you need is not only dangerous and harmful to the body, it can also have psychological consequences. Eating too little has negative consequences on how your brain functions. Your cognitive functions can decline, making decisions becomes more difficult and your concentration can deteriorate. It can decrease your interest in things and reduce your spontaneity. Furthermore, eating too little can lead to a negative mood and cause you to be more easily irritated (Keijsers, Minnen & Hoogduin, 2011).
The Wheel of Five
The Wheel of Five is an information model based on science. It shows you how to eat healthy and which foods will benefit you the most. If you use the Wheel of Five as a guideline, you will have sufficient energy and are provided with all the necessary nutrients.
Do you want to know more about certain nutrients? Then read this article about nutrients.
Keijsers, G. P. J., Minnen, A. V., & Hoogduin, C. A. L. (2011). Protocollaire behandelingen voor volwassenen met psychische klachten, deel 2. Amsterdam: Boom.