Eating healthily is not difficult or complicated – it can be easy, fun and exciting. Good food is not bland or boring and doesn’t have to be expensive. The golden rule for healthy eating remains moderation and variation.

The many food philosophies, opinions and diets can become a bit daunting or confusing. One way to easily apply healthy eating, is a practical plate model. This ensures balanced, healthy meals in the right portion sizes. The principle is to divide your plate into four quarters in the following way: fill two quarters with salad, non-starchy veggies and fruit and one quarter with protein. The remaining quarter should be a high-fibre, unprocessed starch (carbohydrate) for energy and fibre. Visualise a small circle in the middle of the plate to include a healthy fat, like avocado, olive oil, nuts or seeds. Healthy fats in small portions are an important part of a balanced diet.

Veggies and fruit, especially low-starch options, are typically high in antioxidants, fibre and energy. Many can be enjoyed raw or lightly cooked, making them great to include. Fresh foods look appetising and add colour and texture to your plate. Do remember that fruit can be high in natural sugars and energy, so keep the portions moderate.

The size of the palm of your hand is the guide for a portion of protein. Opt for leaner meats like chicken, fish and lean red meat cuts. Other healthy sources of protein like eggs, legumes and beans should be part of your meals on a regular basis.

Good carbohydrate (starch) choices keep you feeling full till the next meal and a starch portion should not be larger than your fist. Avoid white, refined starches like white rice, bread, pap or cereal and pasta as these mainly contribute starch and very little other nutrients. Starchy veg like potatoes also count as carbs. Rather enjoy sweet potato, butternut or brown rice as a starchy side dish.

Now choose foods that are as unprocessed and unrefined as possible. Fresh ingredients high in fibre and healthy fats and low in salt, sodium, sugar and preservatives are best. Processed and pre-prepared foods can be laden with hidden fat, salt or sugar. Cooking methods and seasonings can hugely affect the healthiness of a meal. Rather pan-fry, grill or roast food, than deep-frying it or cooking with lots of sauces and dressings. Season with fresh or dried herbs, spices, ginger, garlic and lemon and don’t overcook food – to retain the natural texture, flavour and nutrients.

Written by Heleen Meyer

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