The Nutrition Academy: What Makes a Healthy Diet?

The Nutrition Academy: What Makes a Healthy Diet?

Healthy diets are important for normal growth and development of children as well as for the health of adults.

But what is a healthy diet and how can we get this information across to our clients?

Diet Components

Diet in general contain the following:

  • Proteins, which consists of strings of amino acids.
  • Fats, also known as lipids, which are made up of combinations of fatty acids.
  • Carbohydrates, which are made form simple sugars.
  • Vitamins, which mostly can’t be made by the body but which are necessary for proper health.
  • Minerals, which are elements often used as co-factors for human enzymes.

 

A healthy diet contains all of these components as they are all necessary for like as we know it. The big question is, how much of these things should we be eating?

Later, we will talk about recommended daily requirements but there are basic ways of educating an individual on what comprises a healthy diet.

Calorific Content

The first thing to understand is the calorific content of a healthy diet. This varies between men and women. In general, every 3500 calories equals to one pound of fat.

So if a person eats more calories than is required for his or her metabolic rate, he or she will gain one pound.

For women, the recommended calorific intake is between 1600 and 2200 calories. For men, the recommended intake is 2000 and 2800 calories.

To calculate the estimated calorific intake more clearly use a BMR calculator, like the one here www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator.

This gives the basal metabolic rate or the number of calories necessary to handle the metabolism of the cells of the body.

The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is about 60 – 70 percent of the total calories required by the individual.

The rest of what goes into a healthy diet are the contents of such a diet. There are recommended amounts of fat, carbohydrates and proteins in a healthy diet.

Carbohydrates 

carbohydrates have standard daily requirements.

Remember that carbohydrates are healthiest when taken in as complex carbohydrates rather than simple sugars, and generally should represent around 50-60 present of the total daily calories depending on activity levels.

Complex carbohydrates come from whole grains, fruits, vegetables and cereals.

The total official daily recommended amount of carbohydrates is generally about 300g – 375g, taken in by a variety of different foods.

Fats

Fats are necessary part of the diet, even though many people should try to cut down on certain types of fat such as trans fats, hydrogenated fats and saturated fats.

Among fats, there are essential fatty acids that are needed for life but are not able to be made by the body.

The amount of recommended fat depends on your age, weight, height and whether or not you are breastfeeding. In general, the official recommended daily intake of fat is 30 – 60 grams  per day.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are definitely part of a healthy diet. The recommended daily intake of these components is generally in micro-grams or milligrams quantities.

Understanding Food Labels

Food labels are vitally important to establishing a healthy diet.

They are also an important teaching tool for clients who need to know exactly what it is they’re eating.

Food labels contain great deal of information on the calorific content of foods, the nutritional content of foods and on any additives foods may have.

Let’s break down a food label into its component pasts and learn what each component means. The following is a food label from a can of beef and vegetable soup.

Nutrition Food Label

Notice the first line, which gives you the portion size of the item of food. Portion sizes are difficult to teach because people often assume much larger portion sizes than are actually recommended.

This particular item/container has about 8 servings as you can on the second line on the label on the left and on the first line of the label right.

Following that, the label lists the calorific content per serving of the food. This label has a total of 1840 calories of food in the container.

The calorie content for fat is not listed, instead its listed as grams and in the case, each serving is 8g which is 72 calories (8g x 9 calories per 1g of fat ). It is also listed as a percentage and this is 12% of daily value.

Unhealthy Fats

In general, people should watch their intake of unhealthy fats particularly saturated fats and trans fats. The next line lists the saturated fat content, which is more atherogenic type of fat.

The total amount of cholesterol per serving is also listed and its important for those on a low cholesterol diet.

Sodium Content 

The sodium content is important for those with high blood pressure who need to watch the amount of salt or sodium chloride in their diet.

To calculate the amount of salt multiply the sodium by 2.5, this contains about 0.5g of salt per serving – just under 10% of the recommended daily allowance of 6g.

Carbohydrate Count

The carbohydrate count is important to recognize, particularly for diabetes. It also lists the amount of fibre a food contains as well as how much of the carbohydrate content is simple sugars.

Simple sugars don’t add much to a healthy diet and should be avoided in diabetes. Fibre is generally insoluble and passes through the bowels so eating foods high in fibre is good for weight loss as they add bulk to the diet without adding calories.

The percentages listed on a food label are based on a 2000 calorie diet and should be adjusted for diets that vary from that.

There is only a gram count for the protein content and not a percentage value as the percent daily recommended daily allowance for protein are different depending on the individual and the circumstances.

Nutritional Consultant

As a nutritional consultant, you’ll want to take out several foods from the cupboard and go over the food labels.

Show the client what a serving of various foods looks like and help them make a plan as to how to eat a healthy diet, following that diet with food labeling.

Understanding Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA)

We talked about some of the recommended daily allowances in the section above, but omitted the RDA’s for some of the micro-nutrients.

Let’s take a broader look at the general official recommendations:

  • Total Cholesterol should be less than 300 milligrams
  • Total fat should be less than 65 grams
  • Saturated fats should be less than 20 grams
  • Sodium should be less than 2400 miligrams 
  • Carbohydrates should be around 150 – 300 grams 
  • Protein should be between 100 – 250 grams 
  • Fibre should be at least 25 grams

 

Micro-nutrients and vitamins include the following:

  • Vitamin A – 5000 international units
  • Calcium – 1000 miligrams
  • Vitamin C – 60 milligrams 
  • Iron – 18 milligrams
  • E vitamin – 30 international units
  • Vitamin D – 400 international units 
  • Vitamin K – 80 micro-grams 
  • Thiamine – 1.5 milligram 
  • Niacin – 20 milligrams 
  • Riboflavin – 1.7 milligrams
  • Folate – 400 micro-grams 
  • Vitamin 6 – 2 milligrams 
  • Vitamins B12 – 6 micrograms
  • Biotin – 300 micro-grams 

 

Mineral Include:

  • Magnesium – 400 milligrams 
  • Zinc – 15 milligrams 
  • Selenium – 70 micro grams 
  • Copper – 2 milligrams
  • Managnese – 2 milligrams
  • Chronium – 120 micro-grams 
  • Molybdenum – 75 micro-grams

 

Because the above values are rarely all included in any food label you might find, it is important to educate the client on which foods contain the nutrients they need. 

This is why tools like food pyramids are useful for explaining how many servings of which food groups to eat in order to maintain a healthy diet to suit a client’s specific needs. 

It’s also important to recognize that many nutritional health experts believe that the RDA may only provide minimal requirements of vitamins and minerals, i.e only enough to prevent deficiency diseases, such as scurvy.  

Many believe that much higher levels may be required to obtain optimal health. However, it is equally important aware of upper intake as some vitamins and minerals are dangerous in excess. 

You will have the opportunity to explore this issue throughout your time as a nutritional consultant. 

Resources and Learning Extension Ideas 

You may also find the following websites useful:

  • The food standards agency http://food.gov.uk 
  • The British nutrition foundation, healthy living.