Food gives us the building blocks of life. Eating healthy keeps our bodies strong, our minds sharp, and can boost our mood. Whether at work or while studying, we need to fuel ourselves with the right mix of nutritious foods.
Luckily, we don’t need to prepare complicated dishes or drink green smoothies to eat healthy. A healthy diet comes down to three key principles: balance, variety, and mindfulness.
A balanced diet is mostly made up foods from the five core food groups:
- Meat and meat alternatives, like tofu, nuts, legumes and beans
- Dairy and dairy alternatives, like soy- and nut-based milks, yoghurts and cheeses
- Grains and cereals, mostly wholegrain options like rolled oats, grainy breads and brown rice
When we eat from all five food groups every day, we’re giving our bodies a great mix of important nutrients that help us feel energised, alert, and strong.
While all five food groups are important, most people will benefit from aiming to eat the recommended five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit each day.
There’s space in a healthy diet for foods that aren’t in the five core food groups – these are often called ‘sometimes foods’ or ‘discretionary foods’. These foods are typically highly processed foods like cakes, biscuits, lollies, pastries, and sugary drinks. It’s absolutely okay to eat these foods some of the time, but if we eat them every day we could be pushing healthy foods out of our diet, which can impact our health. A balanced diet includes core foods most of the time, and ‘sometimes foods’ on occasion.
Mixing it up at meal times means we’re giving our bodies essential vitamins and minerals.
Fruit and vegetable colours are linked to the nutrients they contain, all of which are needed for good health. For example, carrots, apricots, and pumpkins are orange because they contain carotenoids. Carotenoids are antioxidants that play a role in lowering our risk of certain cancers and eye diseases.
‘Eating the rainbow’ is a catchphrase that reminds us to eat a wide variety of foods, particularly fruit and vegetables. When we eat the rainbow, we’re regularly eating colourful and nutritious foods. From purple cabbage and blue berries to green peas and yellow bananas, rainbow foods nourish our bodies and help us thrive.
Mindful eating occurs when we pay attention to what our bodies need and eat according to our sensation of hunger and fullness. This helps us to really enjoy our food.
On the other hand, eating mindlessly means we aren’t able to appreciate our food as much, which can lead to poorer food choices and less healthy habits.
At every meal and snack, try tuning into your body. Focus on your taste buds, and your feelings of hunger and fullness. You’ll be surprised what you learn.
Importantly, healthy eating is more than simply the foods we eat. It’s also about having a healthy attitude towards food. It’s about sharing a meal, participating in social events, celebrating culture, and being a part of other important activities that add joy to our lives.
Eat healthy and spend less
Eating a balanced and varied diet doesn’t have to cost the world. Read our practical tips for eating healthy on a budget.