More and more people are dealing with healthy eating for the sake of their health. But what does a healthy diet actually look like? HEALTH BAS explains.
Eating not only serves to satisfy our needs and to maintain the functionality of our body, it can also be a pleasure and connect people. However, when diet has an impact on our weight, it can also become a test of patience. But what exactly is a healthy diet and how can it be delicious? We have taken on this major topic and collected everything you need to know about healthy eating.
What does healthy eating mean?
There is no uniform definition for this. First of all, the term “healthy” has to be considered a little closer. This means that the daily intake of food should consist of foods that provide nutrients that the body needs to maintain its daily function. But the choice of food plays a decisive role here (more on this in Chapters 2 and 5).
Overall, the menu should contain more plant-based products such as fruit, vegetables or legumes than animal foods such as meat, milk and dairy products. The choice of drinks is also part of a healthy diet. Other factors, such as getting enough exercise, contribute just as much to a healthy life as diet.
The combination of all these factors can also be described as a balanced diet. Balanced in the sense of a balance between the intake of essential nutrients in the right amount and an overall healthy lifestyle that includes a lot of exercise, a healthy stress level and moderate consumption of luxury foods (alcohol, cigarettes).
How does a healthy diet work?
With the latest scientific findings and studies from the past, the topic “How do I eat properly?” repeatedly discussed controversially. While some prefer to rely on their own experiences and needs of the body, there are others who jump on every diet trend such as low carb or paleo.
However, the German Nutrition Society developed a good guideline for a healthy diet a long time ago. This comprises ten rules, which we have summarized for you below:
Use the variety of foods: There is a very large selection of foods that make our menu quite varied and also replenish our nutrient balance. Because no food has all the nutrients to offer.
However, the majority of your daily diet should consist of plant-based foods. Animal products such as milk and meat are more likely to be seen as “side dishes”.
Five times fruit and vegetables a day: The DGE recommends three servings of vegetables (around 400 grams) and two servings of fruit (around 250 grams) per day. Legumes such as beans and lentils are also part of it and, with their fiber, ensure a long-lasting feeling of satiety.
Dried fruit can also replace a serving of fruit. However, this should be smaller because the calorie content is higher.
Consume whole grain products: Foods such as pasta, rice or even flour made from whole grain are much richer in fiber and nutrients than white flour products. They not only ensure a longer satiety, but also contain many more important nutrients such as minerals and trace elements.
Even potatoes that are not highly processed products (prepared meals like chips or hash browns are not really suitable because of the high fat content), are a very good carbohydrate supplier.
Animal products as a supplement: Animal foods such as sausage and meat products, fish as well as milk and dairy products are to be seen as a supplement to the vegetable component of the menu and are especially important for the requirement of vitamin B12.
Milk and dairy products such as cheese and yogurt should be consumed daily as they are an important source of calcium. Calcium is important for building bones and teeth. The DGE also recommends eating fish once or twice a week due to the iodine and omega-3 fatty acid content.
For the weekly meat consumption, it should not be more than 300 to 600 grams of sausage and meat products (depending on the calorie requirement). Eggs should also be eaten in moderation.
Prefer healthy fats: These are mainly found in plant-based products. Animal fats mostly contain saturated fatty acids, which can have a negative effect on our blood fat. There are more unsaturated fatty acids in vegetable fats. These have many positive effects on our health. It is also important to pay attention to hidden fats that can be found in sausage products, for example.
Sugar and salt in moderation: Sugar is not only high in calories, but also contains no nutrients. Excessive sugar consumption increases the risk of diabetes and obesity. Sugar alternatives like dried fruit or honey can be good alternatives.
Salt shouldn’t be consumed in large amounts either. The DGE recommends not more than 6 grams per day, as salt increases blood pressure and removes water from the body.
Drink plenty of water: A sufficient daily intake of fluids is essential for the maintenance of our body’s function. The guideline for this is 1.5 to 2 liters per day. Water and unsweetened tea are particularly recommended here, as sweet drinks such as soft drinks or fruit juices contain unnecessary calories, a large amount of sugar and pose a risk of diabetes and obesity.
Alcohol should also be consumed in moderation. For women, the DGE recommends not consuming more than 10 grams of alcohol and for men 20 grams (equivalent to half a liter of beer or 250 milliliters of wine) per day. However, daily consumption should be avoided as this increases the risk of cancer.
Gentle preparation: When preparing food, it is important to ensure that it is gentle and low in fat. Many vitamins and nutrients are soluble in water or sensitive to heat. Therefore, when heated or boiled in water (for example potatoes) important nutrients can be lost.
Gentle preparation methods such as steaming or stewing are to be preferred. High-fat methods such as deep-frying should also not be used regularly.
Eating consciously and mindfully: Enjoying the meal and being aware of what is being eaten is an extremely essential factor in a healthy diet. It is also important to take enough time to eat and consume the food slowly. Because only after 20 minutes does a feeling of satiety arise. So if you eat very quickly, you eat more food in the West. It is also beneficial to chew well to avoid making it too difficult for the stomach to digest.
Get enough exercise: Exercise is also part of a healthy diet. Depending on the job, you should exercise for 30 to 60 minutes a day. What this looks like has to be decided individually (lose weight or keep weight). Sport is important for building muscle and can also be a great way to balance your stressful everyday life.
Here you will find the 10 rules of the DGE explained in more detail.
Healthy nutrition for the whole day
To ensure that you are adequately supplied every day, you should ideally observe the following quantities:
- 3 servings of vegetables
- 2 servings of fruit
- 1.5 liters of water
- 30 grams of fiber (whole grains, vegetables, legumes)
- 250 to 310 grams of milk and dairy products (cheese, yogurt, milk, etc.)
- fish once or twice a week
- about 260 grams of carbohydrates from potatoes, whole grains, cereals, rice (with a calorie requirement of around 2000 kilocalories per day)
The nutritional requirements can only be optimally covered by combining different foods.
By the way: Every year on March 7th, the Association for Nutrition and Dietetics set the day for healthy eating. This should serve to become aware of personal nutrition and, if necessary, to make changes.
What does our body need to survive?
First of all, our body must be supplied with macronutrients – nutrients that are found in large quantities in food: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Your daily food intake should consist of about 55 to 60 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat and 10 to 15 percent protein.
Carbohydrates make up the main part, as they provide us with the energy we need and regulate our blood sugar. Complex, i.e. nutrient-rich carbohydrates such as lentils make them rise more slowly and therefore satiate longer.
Proteins are also vital as they make up a large part of cells. Since our body cannot synthesize all proteins itself, protein has to be taken in through our food. This allows cells to be formed and renewed. They are also responsible for the formation of enzymes and hormones and are involved in numerous metabolic processes.
We cannot survive without fat either. Because fats provide us with essential fatty acids and ensure that certain vitamins can only be absorbed.
We also need the so-called micronutrients for essential processes in the body. These include minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium and vitamins such as vitamins B, C or folic acid.
What are the effects of a healthy diet?
A healthy and balanced diet has several positive effects. On the one hand, it ensures that we do not accumulate unnecessary pounds. On the other hand, many health benefits can be achieved through a healthy diet.
For example, there are many studies on certain ingredients in plant foods, such as fruits and vegetables, that lower the risk of various diseases. For example, certain extracts in zucchini lower the risk of cancer. The essential oils in basil, on the other hand, act as natural antibiotics, for example.
In addition, a healthy diet can also affect our mood. There are also numerous studies on this that show that a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables brightens our mood and makes us fitter. Unhealthy food like fast food can even trigger depression.
In general, a healthy diet makes you feel healthier, fitter and more vital. So overall you feel more comfortable in your own body and do something good for your health because, among other things, you are less prone to illnesses.
Which foods are suitable for a healthy diet and which are not?
The following list is based heavily on the ten rules of the DGE, which were already explained in more detail in Chapter 2.
Suitable foods for a healthy diet:
- Fruits and vegetables (freshly best, frozen food can also be used)
- Legumes like lentils and beans
- Grain products like oats, spelled and rye
- Milk and milk products with a low fat content such as natural yoghurt, milk and cheese
- Dried fruit
- Nuts such as almonds and walnuts (but in moderation due to their high calorie content)
- Herbal products such as oat or almond milk and almond butter
Rather, these foods should be avoided:
- Heavily processed products like ready meals
- Products with high salt and sugar content
- Fatty foods such as confectionery, chips and Co.
The rule is: Strict prohibitions and waivers are anything but practical – cravings are usually on the agenda. On special occasions or celebrations, you can also feast without adding extra pounds immediately – as long as such “calorie bombs” don’t become part of everyday life. Because enjoyment and zest for life should not be neglected.
There should be a total of three meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Healthy snacks such as nuts can be consumed between meals. The daily calorie guideline is roughly between 1500 and 2000 kilocalories depending on physical activity and gender. Here you can calculate your personal calorie requirement.
But of course, healthy eating should not fall by the wayside in everyday work either. The Meal-prep weekly schedules of HEALTH BAS you can easily prepare meals and enjoy in the office.
These are designed in such a way that not only the nutritional requirements are replenished daily, but also offer many varied dishes. In addition, dinner directly represents lunch for the next day. This saves you time when cooking and shopping.
Why is healthy eating so important in children?
Not only is education laid as a cornerstone in childhood, but nutrition also has a great influence. For growth, children need the most important nutrients so that all organs can develop properly. Calcium and proteins are essential for this.
But in addition to maintaining function, a healthy diet in children also influences their subsequent weight. A diet that is very high in sugar and fat, for example, creates a certain amount of memory in the body that is difficult to change in later life.
This means that an unhealthy diet high in sugar and fat puts you at great risk of obesity and all related diseases. In adulthood it is often difficult to reverse these “nutritional mistakes”.
However, a healthy diet is important even during pregnancy. Because a sufficient supply of nutrients is essential for the development of the fetus. Here you can find out how you can easily eat healthily during pregnancy and what else you should pay attention to.