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How to eat lighter for a healthy diet

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How to eat lighter for a healthy diet
There is no "right" way to eat: the important thing is to eat healthily. From snacks to eating patterns, find out how to eat lighter for a healthy diet here
Although many people still like to have three main meals a day, others are choosing a lighter way of eating consisting of a series of snacks rather than substantial meals. Either option is equally valid. The important thing is to make sure you choose healthy foods.

Eating to suit your lifestyle

The demands of modern life mean that we don’t always have the opportunity to sit down and eat three meals a day. For some people, the pressures of combining work and family leave little time for food preparation. Others regularly eat on their own and don’t want to bother cooking a full meal. Even in families, individual family members may all have different schedules.
A family are grocery shopping: a mother holds her daughter as she reaches into a freezer, while the father pushes the trolley
With the advent of the microwave and freezer, and the boom in convenience foods, it’s much easier now to eat little and often, eating what we want when we want it. And the range of foods to snack on is vast, with so much on offer from other countries’ cuisines. But to eat well, it’s important to choose the right foods and ensure that we don’t miss out nutritionally when we’re not following a traditional meal structure.

Little and often

There is no “right” way of eating, as long as you take in all the nutrients your body requires. The really important thing is what you eat, not when. If you prefer to snack sometimes, try to choose foods that are appropriate to your kilojoule needs and to balance the foods you eat throughout the day, making sure you have an adequate intake from all the main food groups: starchy carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, and protein foods.
Eating little and often can be beneficial for health, as it helps to maintain blood glucose levels. However, there can be a danger of eating too much, and of little and often becoming lots and often!
"There is no 'right' way of eating, as long as you take in all the nutrients your body requires"
We don’t eat only because we’re hungry. Boredom or stress can drive us to the fridge, canteen or corner shop, and without a traditional meal structure to guide us it can be hard to keep track of how much we’re consuming. If you make sure all your snacks are nutritious ones, as well as lower in fat and sugar, you are less likely to eat beyond your body’s needs. 

What is a healthy snack?

It’s tempting to turn to sweet biscuits, chocolate confectionery and chips when you want a snack. While it won’t do any harm to enjoy these foods occasionally, if they become a regular part of the diet, your intake of saturated fat will increase and you may go short of vital nutrients.
"Regular consumption of confectionery will increase your saturated fat intake"
A healthy snack, on the other hand, can make a significant contribution of vitamins and minerals, dietary fibre and essential fats (as opposed to saturated fats).

Healthy snacks you can enjoy

Starchy carbohydrates, such as bread, cereals, potatoes, rice and pasta, have a lot to offer nutritionally and make excellent choices as the basis both for snacks and for lunch. They are filling without being high in kilojoules and help to keep you topped up with energy and on an even keel throughout the day.
A full, colourful fruit and vegetable stall, with foods ranging from pumpkins in the top right corner to lychee and mangoes in the bottom right corner
Fresh fruit or vegetable crudités are both excellent choices for a light snack. Although not as filling as starchy carbohydrate foods, many fruit and most vegetables are high in disease-fighting antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene.

Making time for lunch

No matter what our eating pattern is for the rest of the day, most of us do try to make time for lunch of some sort, even if it is just a "light bite"—a sandwich in the office, a simple hot dish or salad in the canteen, or a quick bowl of soup at home. Lunch is an essential pause in the middle of the day, a chance to relax and recharge our batteries a little.
A bowl of healthy salad on a checked tablecloth, next to a pot of dressing
In the office it’s all too tempting to rush out and quickly grab some processed fast food, or at home to reach for a can or packet, but these may not offer the best way to boost flagging energy levels.
"Lunch is an essential pause in the middle of the day, and a great chance to relax and recharge"
It only takes a little advanced preparation and not much effort to make sure your lunch is full of deliciously good things that will increase your intake of nutrients and provide the energy to keep you going all through the afternoon.
Banner photo: How to eat healthy for a lighter diet (credit: Ella Olsson (Pexels))
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