Health: Local student dietitian Eimear McCoy looks at eating better after the pandemic lockdown
Many of us may be finding that our current food choices and eating patterns are quite different to what they were pre- lockdown.
It may be that you have noticed yourself snacking more frequently, perhaps drinking alcohol more regularly.
Or, you may feel your diet has improved over the last couple of months.
Covid-19 has impacted our lives in many different ways, it has forced us to make changes to our daily routines which include our food routines.
In this article I want to bring you back to the basics of nutrition and introduce the healthy eating recommendations set out in the Food Pyramid.
The food pyramid is aimed at all members of the population over the age of 5. It illustrates how much of what we eat should come from different food groups.
For example, fruit and vegetables form the base shelf of the pyramid as these are the foods that should be included most abundantly in our diet.
On the other hand, high sugar, fat and salty foods are found on the top shelf, as we should consume these only on occasion.
According to the food pyramid we should be aiming to achieve the following on a daily basis: 5-7 servings of vegetables, salad and/or fruit. One serving equates to an apple, two small pieces of fruit such as mandarins or ½ cup of cooked vegetables.
We should include fruit and vegetables in our diet as they are excellent sources of many vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and of course dietary fiber. 3-5 servings of wholegrain starchy carbohydrates. Examples include wholegrain cereals, breads, potatoes and pasta. Wholegrain foods are rich sources of B vitamins, dietary fiber, iron, copper alongside many other minerals. 3 servings of dairy foods, including milk, yogurt and cheese.
Dairy foods are nutrient dense, they provide us with calcium, iodine, and protein. However, products such as cheese and butter do contain large amounts of saturated fat. Saturated fat is the type of fat we must try keep to a minimum in the diet.
It is advised therefore that we choose reduced or low-fat dairy options when possible. 2 servings of protein rich foods such as meat, legumes, poultry and nuts.
Opt for lean cuts of meat and chicken when possible and aim to limit processed salty meats such as sausages, bacon and ham.
Protein is an essential macronutrient that has multiple functions in the body.
It is needed for structural purposes, to allow growth and repair of muscle, for the formation of metabolites such as enzymes and it plays an important role in ensuring that we have a healthy immune system. Small amounts of high fat foods such as spreads and oils.
Rapeseed, olive and canola oils are the recommended options as they contain high amounts of polyunsaturated fats.
In regard to spreads it is advised that we choose unsaturated or reduced fat products.
Finally, a recommended serving size for the top shelf of the pyramid is not suggested as these foods are not considered essential in order to achieve good health. That’s not to say that they don’t have a place within a healthy balanced diet.
The advice does suggest that we consume foods from this group no more than once or twice a week.
We can take the recommendations outlined above and apply them to our individual meals.
When trying to create a balanced meal, remember the following points: combine plenty of fruit and vegetables with different sources of plant and animal protein, starchy wholegrain carbohydrates, and different types of fat predominately unsaturated.
An example of a balanced breakfast would be wholegrain cereal or oats with milk (or fortified soya milk), a serving of fruit and a tablespoon of mixed nuts or seeds.
The guidelines discussed above are designed with the whole population in mind and should not override advice that has been tailored specifically to you. No one size fits all when it comes to nutrition and so population-based guidelines such as those above should be approached with a flexible mindset.
To finish I want to remind you that a balanced diet is achieved not over the course of a day or a week. It is achieved through looking at the bigger picture of what we eat over periods of months and years.
Following the Food Pyramid doesn’t mean that you need to achieve balance with every meal, aim to achieve balance over the course of days, weeks or months.
Having one treat meal is not going to “unbalance” the rest of your diet. “Everything in moderation” is quite a cliché but a relevant motto to remind yourself of.
To learn more evidence based nutrition tips and tricks please visit my Instagram account - Health_aligned.
For more information about the food pyramid you can visit The Safe Food website: www.safefood.eu
Eimear Mc Coy is a 21-year-old Student Dietitian from Ardee:
“I am heading into my final year of studying Dietetics and Human nutrition. I am extremely passionate about health and fitness, growing up I was someone who enjoyed playing sports and keeping fit.
“My real interest lies within nutrition and the influence food has on our bodies and minds. Good nutrition I believe is the foundation for living a long, healthy and happy life. Nutrition is such a hot topic at the moment, we are bombarded on a regular basis with copious amounts of nutrition information whether that be from the media or from people around us.
“It can be difficult to distinguish what’s fact and what’s fiction because ultimately many of the messages we see particularly in the media are not scientifically sound.
“I am passionate about simplify the confusing conflicting messages that are out there, about debunking common nutrition misconceptions and myths and about translating evidence based information into clear concise reader friendly form. I believe it is everyones right to be provided with evidence based information so that they can make fully informed choices around food and nutrition.”