A healthy diet means eating a wide variety of foods and, most importantly, enjoying them! There is a greater choice of food and foodstuffs on offer today than ever before. To ensure you maintain a balanced diet, you should combine an appropriate amount of nutritious and low-energy foods and favour fresh, unprocessed ingredients. Enjoy food in moderation, not in bulk.
Every day you should eat some form of bread, pasta, cereal, rice or potato, favouring wholegrain varieties. Wholegrain food is rich in dietary fibre, which can help to lower the risk of bowel cancer and type 2 diabetes. To make sure you’re consuming a good quantity of vitamins, minerals, fibre and secondary plant compounds, you should also eat three portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit every day, where a portion is roughly equal to a handful. People who eat large quantities of these foods are less at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Animal products such as milk, eggs, fish and meat also contain important nutrients as well as high-quality protein. Milk, for example, is rich in calcium, and saltwater fish is a good source of iodine, selenium and Omega-3 fatty acids. Meat is high in minerals and also contains vitamins B1, B6 and B12. It is recommended that you eat no more than 300 to 600 grams of meat a week. You should favour low-fat products, especially when it comes to meat and dairy, as too much fat can lead to obesity. Fat is an essential part of our diet as it is an important source of fat-soluble vitamins. However, it provides more than double the amount of energy derived from protein and carbohydrates (nine compared to four kilocalories per gram), and therefore 60 to 80 grams of fat a day is sufficient. Bear in mind also that the type of fat you consume can affect your health in different ways: too much saturated fat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, whereas the consumption of unsaturated fat probably benefits our cardiovascular system. You should therefore favour beneficial vegetable fats and be aware of hidden fat in baked goods and sausages, for example.
It is not only hidden fat, however, that can lead to an excess of calories in our diet; food and drink with a high sugar content should also only be consumed occasionally. As a rule of thumb, you should derive no more than ten percent of your daily energy intake from sweet foods. So with an average daily energy requirement of 2,000 kilocalories, sugars should make up around 200 kilocalories – roughly equivalent to two lines of chocolate (around 40 grams) or half a litre of fizzy drink.
Salt should also be used sparingly. Be creative with herbs and spices instead, and if you really need to add salt, use iodised or fluoridated table salt. You should prepare your food with care: short cooking times, steaming instead of boiling, and low temperatures when boiling or frying (i.e. browning rather than charring) all help to retain the food’s natural flavour and preserve nutrients as well as preventing the formation of harmful compounds.
Take your time when eating, as it takes 20 minutes for you to start feeling full after beginning a meal. Take care not to eat absent-mindedly or on the go, but to consciously enjoy your meals.
As well as food, drink also plays an important part in ensuring a balanced, nutritional diet. You should try to drink around 1.5 litres of either energy-free or low-energy drinks per day, e.g. water, diluted fruit juice or unsweetened tea. Alcoholic beverages should only be consumed occasionally and in small quantities.
Last but not least, try to maintain a normal body weight and to keep active. Both have a positive effect on your overall health.
Susann-Catherine Ruprecht of the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke (DifE) answered this question.
This information comes from the dietary recommendations of the German Nutrition Society (DGE), which formulated ten rules for healthy and wholesome nutrition on the basis of current scientific findings.