How healthy is healthy

Roxanne Fisher investigates the different meanings of 'health' in the media and how it can affect your diet...

Fresh vegetables

Most of us are aware of the government guidelines for eating for optimum health: each meal should be a balanced percentage of the five main food groups; snacks should be healthy; we should get our five-a-day at all costs, etc etc.

Sounds easy enough, certainly advice the majority of us could benefit from, and probably, already follow to varying degrees. A balanced diet is always going to beat a quick-fix-fad hands down. What about those of us who want to go beyond the basics though? We're constantly bombarded with the latest health craze/scare and much of the expert advice is wildly contradictory.

Five-a-day tagineOne example that has made health headlines in recent years is the claim that we should be eating not five but eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day to prevent heart disease by up to 22%. The revelation has been met with varied reactions - some nutritionists even stepping out and saying the whole notion of a healthy diet needing to be heavy with fruit and veg is a myth.

So who and what do we believe if even our government guidelines on healthy eating are proposed to be inadequate?

Comments on the NHS health website highlight the confusion and dissatisfaction many people feel about the advice on offer. Conflicting professional guidance about fats , carbs and proteins seem to drive people further away from a sensible diet - what's the point in trying to eat well if no one can agree on what's healthy?

Even those eating a balanced diet are forced to question whether their habits are correct - for example are our portion sizes too large or small or should we be eating three times a day or having six smaller meals to aid digestion?

Pea soupThere is certainly not a one-size-fits all answer, but such varying advice can make the average person anxious about their daily consumption - let alone people who already struggle with weight issues or eating disorders.

What have been your experiences of trying to follow a healthy lifestyle? Are there related issues you would particularly like to see discussed on the site?


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Comments (7)

ajctracey's picture

Somehow I can't help wondering if our current obsession with healthy food isn't actually contributing to the obesity epidemic. Everyone is different and perhaps we have to start accepting that one-size-fits-all diet recommendations are not really useful.

Tyler_Durden's picture

No, we're really not all different. If we were, it would be impossible to mass-produce pharmaceuticals, as every patient would need a specific formulation.

The fact is that, very few specific medical examples aside, we are fat because we eat too much and don't exercise sufficiently. Of the two, diet is more important as exercise is fairly poor for weight loss.

Johnsmth708's picture

As with everything in life, eat all food types in moderation and make sure you get a balance. This blog has really helped me.

whats4t's picture

I would agree that moderation and portion sizes is the way to go for sensible eating, although it is important for some people (and it would appear a great many more in recent times) who have dangerously high cholesterol levels, should avoid some foods completely, if only short term. What really annoys me is the articles written in countless publications telling us to consume "a handful of brazil nuts" or a mid morning snack of "blueberries or fresh cranberries" and don`t forget the "almonds pecans and avocado" in the afternoon! Make your own breakfast muesli with a multitude of exotic fruits and nuts. These ingredients cost the earth in relation to some folks incomes, one day eating that type of food would cover the cost of a several modest main meals.Please get real, give us practical advice . . .not eating plans for A list celebs!!

angela atkinson's picture

that is so true and also its probably using a lot of your daily calories i tried all this kind of thing and i just wanted more as i was always nibbling

laurajane985's picture

I have struggled with an eating disorder nearly all of my life and it has developed into the need for everything to be 'healthy'. It is an absolute minefield as I read articles on things that say 'eat more of this, less of that' and i follow it, then speak to my doctor and they say that it's all rubbish and I need more of what I am cutting out.
I think the right thing is a balanced diet. A little of everythig, less sugary refined foods. But, if like me you want to eat the best you can then it is impossile to know if you are really getting it right.

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vonney085's picture

I couldn't agree more i am forever trying to convince myself that the only way is to have everything in moderation and be able to say that you have tried your best well to a certain extent :) because I honestly think I would die from the stress of worrying about what foods I am eating quicker!!