The 7 Essential Ingredients of a Healthy Balanced Diet

The 7 Essential Ingredients of a Healthy Balanced Diet

I am sure you may have heard of the phase: you are what you eat.  Eating a healthy balanced diet plays a vital role in maintaining good health. So, what are the essential ingredients of a healthy balanced diet? Let’s take a look…

Here are 7 essential ingredients of a healthy balanced diet

1) Water

Did you know that you can eat a large portion of a healthy balanced diet and still feel hungry? That is because you need a drink of water to fill you up.

Water is an essential ingredient of a healthy balanced diet. It is important for optimal health. It is also essential for the functioning and cleansing of your body. You lose water daily from your body through urine and sweat and it needs to be replenished.  If you are not drinking enough water, you can become dehydrated.

Studies have shown that good hydration is essential for the prevention of chronic diseases (1). To gauge whether you are drinking enough water, the colour of your urine should be a light-yellow colour. Dark yellow urine is a sign that you need to drink more water.

If you are looking for ways to sustain good levels of hydration throughout the day, herbal and fruit tea is a good alternative to water. Herbal and fruit tea contain no caffeine and can have some therapeutic effect.

2) Herbs and Spices

Did you know that every time you use herbs or spices to add flavour to your food, you are literally making it tastier without adding a single calorie?

Herbs and spices are an essential ingredient of a healthy balanced diet. They will not only add flavour to your food. They will add colour and health benefits to your food; your meals will come alive.

Herbs and spices are some of the most powerful antioxidants. They are nutrient dense; rich in minerals and multivitamins and they have medicinal properties.

Here are some of the herbs and spices that you can incorporate into your diet:

Turmeric, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Cayenne chili pepper, Black pepper, Cumin, Sage, Coriander, Basil, Garlic, Thyme, Oregano, and Ginger etc.

3) Vegetables and fruits

Vegetables and fruits are good carbohydrates. Eating plenty of fresh, high quality vegetables and some fruit is an essential ingredient of a healthy balanced diet. It will provide you with all the nutrients your body needs for optimal health.

A research published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found that people who eat seven or more portions of vegetables and fruit a day have a 42% lower risk of dying from any cause, compared to those who eat less than one portion. They also found that they enjoy a 31% lower risk of heart disease and a 25% lower risk of cancer (2)

The study brought to light that vegetables had a larger protective effect than fruits. Your focus should be on consuming more vegetables and small amount of fruit.

Aim to fill half of your plate with vegetables such as broccoli, kale, lettuce, cucumber, cauliflower, bell pepper, cabbage, watercress, etc

4) Other Good Carbohydrates

Other good carbohydrates are starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, yam, squash, parsnips and pumpkin which are essential ingredients of a healthy balanced diet. They are digested slowly so will not raise your blood sugar or spike insulin. They can be eaten in moderation.

Don’t eat carbohydrate alone. Always combine it with some fibre, protein or healthy fats to help with blood sugar balance.

5) Good Quality Protein

Good quality protein is an essential ingredient of a healthy balanced diet. It is important for the building and repair of your body tissues such as your skin and it is also a main component of your immune system and hormones.

Including good quality protein in your diet is important for blood sugar and insulin balance. It will also help you control your hunger.

Here are good quality protein you can incorporate into your diet:

– Free range eggs (preferably organic)
– Organic, grass-fed poultry (preferably organic)
– Fish, shrimps (wild and not farmed)
– Nuts and seeds
– Beans or legumes
– Small portions of lean clean meat, wild game (preferably organic)

6) Good Quality Fat

Did you know that FAT does not make you fat or cause heart disease? A research published in the British Medical Journal shattered the myth that fat causes heart disease and obesity; they found no link between eating saturated fat, heart disease and obesity (3)

The type of fat you eat matters, not the amount. Good quality fat is an essential ingredient of a healthy balanced diet. By adding good fat to your diet, the digestion and absorption of your food is slower, and the reaction of insulin is less extreme. So, don’t cut out fat, enjoy it.

Here are good quality fats that you can incorporate into your diet:

– Fatty fish including wild salmon, sardines and mackerel
– Avocados
– Nuts and seeds
– Olive oil, extra virgin olive oil
– Extra virgin coconut oil
– Grass-fed animal products – butter, eggs

 7) No processed food

Processed food refers to food that has been chemically processed and prepared from refined ingredients and artificial additives. All the real nutrition has been processed right out of it. It is not an essential ingredient of a healthy balanced diet.

Did you know that you can become addicted to processed food? When food is processed, essential components of the food like fibre, water and other nutrients are removed and the way the food is digested and absorbed by your body changes. Dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter is stimulated, making you feel good and you crave more.

Processed foods are high in sugar, unhealthy fat and processed salt which have all been linked to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity and cancer.

The key to a healthy balanced diet is eating a range of healthy food in the right amount.


1)     Manz F, Wentz A (2005) The importance of good hydration for the prevention of chronic diseases. Nutr Rev63:S2–5
2)     Oyebode O, Gordon-Dseagu V, Walker A, Mindell J S (2014) Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, doi: 10.1136/jech-2013-203500. [Epub ahead of print
3)     Aseem M (2013) Saturated fat is not the major issue. British Medical Journal, 347:f6340 (link:

MINDFUL EATING: What is Mindful Eating?

MINDFUL EATING: What is Mindful Eating?

How often have you read that you should eat mindfully? What does that actually mean?

Eating mindfully is the practice of being present as you eat.

If you’re into mindfulness, you might think that ‘mindful eating’ is all about “eating slowly and without distraction.” That is certainly one way to look at it but I also want to share my take on it…

One of the things that comes up all the time for my clients is non-hunger eating. This is eating even though you’re not actually hungry.

Does that resonate with you? Do you ever eat for comfort, due to stress, out of boredom, in secret or because you’re upset about something? The consequences stretch far beyond problems with weight. They go right to the soul, and have you feeling incomplete, wrong, guilty and ashamed.

In my book, mindful eating is with intention and attention.

  • Eating with the intention of caring for yourself.
  • Eating with the attention necessary for noticing and enjoying your food and how it affects your body.
  • Being aware of your physical and emotional cues.
  • Recognising your non-hunger triggers.
  • Learning to meet your needs or reward yourself without food.
  • Choosing food to nourish your body.

I find many people who struggle with food react mindlessly to their unrecognised triggers, thoughts, and feelings. Mindfulness increases your awareness of these patterns and triggers without judgment and creates space between your triggers and your actions.


  • Whenever you notice you feel like eating, pause to ask the question, “am I hungry?”. You are then able to observe your thoughts andchoose how you will respond. This gives you response-ability and empowers you to break old automatic or habitual chain reactions and discover options that work better for you.
  • Exercise: think back to the last time you ate. Did you look at your watch for your cue or to see whether it was time to eat? Did you have an appointment, for lunch, maybe? Or perhaps you walked past a shop window and THEN decided you really needed a cake just like the one you saw in the window.

I can tell you that before I got out of the diet trap myself, I was alarmed to discover that I never ate because I was hungry. What were your reasons?

  • It was TIME to eat (lunch, dinner, etc.)
  • You were offered food
  • You were sad and needed to be comforted
  • You were angry
  • You were bored
  • You were happy and wanted to celebrate
  • You saw something you fancied
  • You were upset and needed a treat

Other –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

This exercise will give you a valuable insight into why you are choosing to eat.

Remember you were born knowing exactly how much to eat. Hunger is your body’s way of telling you that you need fuel.

By reconnecting with your instinctive signals, you can manage your eating without restrictive dieting or obsessing over every bite of food you put in your mouth. Proper hunger is your natural guide but you need to be able to distinguish this from the non-food triggers.

To break out of the pattern of eating on autopilot, get in the habit of asking yourself, “am I hungry?” every time you feel like eating. This simple but powerful question will help you recognise the difference between an urge to eat caused by the physical need for food from an urge to eat caused by ‘head hunger’ or non-hunger eating.

The more you are conscious of what you are putting into your body, the more you are able to choose healthier, nourishing foods. This will help you establish a healthy relationship with food and maintain a healthy weight.

Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet

Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet

More and more people are now avoiding gluten and as a result the sale of gluten free food is also on the rise. So, are there any benefits of going gluten free? Let’s take a look…

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like rye, wheat and barley. Gluten is also regularly hidden in a majority of processed foods such as low fat and fat-free products, refined grains (pizza, pasta, spaghetti, bread, biscuits, cakes and pastries), soups, sauces, sweets and various ready-made foods.

About 1 in 100 people have celiac disease.

For individuals with celiac disease, the consumption of gluten triggers an immune response that damages the microvilli of the small intestine, disrupting their digestion and preventing the absorption of nutrients.

A study published in 2008 in the Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology Journal stated that celiac disease is a disorder caused by the ingestion of gluten and this causes inflammation (1).

People with celiac disease would benefit from a gluten free diet. A majority of people without celiac disease are also deciding from a lifestyle perspective to adopt a gluten free diet.
So, what are the benefits of gluten free? Here are 3 benefits of gluten free…
1) Gluten free can help you lose weight
Helping you lose weight is one of the benefits of gluten free. Majority of refined carbohydrates such as bread, pizza, pasta, spaghetti, pastries etc. contain gluten. When you consume these refined carbohydrates, it causes a quick rise in your blood sugar level.

This sugar is stored in your liver and muscles and the rest is stored as fat. Constantly eating these refined foods will keep your blood sugar level elevated, causing you to store more fat.

A study published in 2005 in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that there was a link between eating refined carbohydrates and being overweight. The study also found that overweight individuals were more prone to eating excess refined carbohydrates (2).

The type of carbohydrate you eat is important.

Good carbohydrates such as vegetables and some fruit will not cause a quick rise in your blood sugar, preventing you from storing fat but bear in mind that it is important to eat more vegetables and less fruit.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”2716″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]2)  Gluten free can help keep your brain healthy
Helping to keep your brain healthy is one of the benefits of gluten free. Foods that contain gluten promote inflammation.

Chronic inflammation anywhere in your body can cause destruction on your brain.

A research published in the Oxford Journals suggested that food proteins like gluten contain opiod peptides that may go from your gut to your brain and cause symptoms of various brain disorders such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease (3).
3) Gluten free can help to keep your thyroid glands healthy
Helping to keep your thyroid glands healthy is one of the benefits of gluten free. The structure of gliadin, the protein part of gluten is strongly similar to that of your thyroid gland. When you eat foods containing gluten, gliadin triggers an immune response that causes damage to the lining of your small intestine and disrupts your digestion. The antibodies also cause your immune system to attack your thyroid glands.

A study published in the Hepatogastroenterology Journal found a link between thyroid disease and gluten intolerance, it stated that if you have an autoimmune thyroid disease and you consume foods with gluten, your immune system attacks your thyroid glands (4)
There are numerous benefits to going gluten free but it is important to bear in mind that, because a food is labelled gluten free, it does not automatically make it healthy.

You should still always read the labels of gluten free foods.


  1. Quaka-Kchaou A, Ennaifer R, elloumi H, Gargouri D, Hefaiedh R, KochIef A, Romani M, Kharrat J, Ghorbel A (2008) Autoimmune Diseases in Coeliac Disease: Effect of Gluten Exposure. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, 1: 169-172 PUBMED.
  2. Ma Y, Olendzki B, Chiriboga D, Hebert J R, Li Y, Li W, Campbell M, Gendreau K, Ockene I S (2005) Association between Dietary Carbohydrates and Body Weight. American Journal of Epidemiology, 161: 359-367. OXFORD JOURNALS.
  3. Dohan F C (1988) Genetic Hypothesis of Idiopathic Schizophrenia: Its Exorphin Connection. Oxford Journals Schizophreniabulletin, 14: 489-494.
  4. Akcay M N, Akcay G (2003) The presence of the antigliadin antibodies in autoimmune thyroid disease. Hepatogastroenterology, 50 Suppl2:cclxxix-ccixxx
3 Important Tips to Stay Full for Longer

3 Important Tips to Stay Full for Longer

Do you experience ongoing hunger even if you have eaten so much? Did you know that what you actually eat controls how full you feel?  Let’s take a look…

A study published in the Nutrition Research Review 2013 found that there are certain foods that you can eat that will fill you up, avoid the hunger and make you eat less.

Here are three tips to stay full for longer.

1. Eat Protein With Every Meal

Eating foods high in protein with every meal is one of the tips to stay full for longer. Protein is one of three main macro-nutrients required by the human body.

It is broken down into amino acids which your body needs for building muscles, balancing your hormones, neurological and mood support, digestion and many more. Protein helps to keep your body going.

It is the macro-nutrient that fills you up the most.

Your body needs twenty amino acids. It can create 11 of them but you need to get the other nine, which are called essential amino acids, from your food.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2008 found that protein increases fullness to a greater extent than carbohydrate or fat and makes it easier for you to eat less.

Food sources high in protein include:

– Wild fish – salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.
– Free-range eggs
– Lentils
– Beans
– Free-range/organic chicken or turkey
– Whey protein/pea protein
– Yogurt – Raw milk[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”2708″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]

2. Eat foods high in dietary fiber

Eating foods high in dietary fiber are one of the tips to stay full for longer. Dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate which your body cannot digest; it passes through your digestive system and helps to keep it healthy.

There are two types of dietary fiber: insoluble and soluble.

The two types of dietary fibre in your diet provide bulk; they take longer to move through your digestive system so it will keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition 2000 found that dietary fiber has unique physical and chemical properties that provide early and prolonged signals of fullness and satisfaction.

It is very essential to make sure you are drinking enough water when you are including fiber in your diet. Fiber absorbs water so if you are not drinking enough water you can get constipated.

Food sources high in dietary fiber include:

– Vegetables: broccoli, lettuce, carrot, peas, cucumber, kale etc.
– Fruits: Berries, apple, avocado, etc.
– Legumes: beans, lentils, etc.
– Oats[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”2709″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]

3. Eat Foods With A High Water Content

Eating foods with a high water content are one of the tips to stay full for longer. Nearly all foods contain some water but some foods such as whole, unprocessed foods contain more water for example vegetables and fruits are made up of about 80-98% of water.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999 examined the effects of water combined with food such as soups on fullness. It found out that eating food that has high water content effectively increased fullness and reduced the need for more food.

Healthy homemade soups made with lots of vegetables and good quality protein is an excellent food that is high in water.


The Bottom Line

Foods that are not processed are generally more filling than foods that are processed. Always include protein and dietary fiber with all your meals to help you stay full for longer.


Hetherington M M, Cunningham K, Dye L, Gibson E L, Gregersen N T, Halford J C, Lawton C L, Lluch A, Mela D J, Van Trip H C (2013) Potential benefits of satiety to the consumer: scientific considerations. Nutrition Research Review, 26: 22-38.

Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes R D, Wolfe R R, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M (2008) Protein, weight management, and satiety. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87: 1558S-1561S.

Burton-Freeman B (2000) Dietary fiber and energy regulation. Journal of Nutrition, 130: 272S-275S.

Rolls B J, Bell E, Thorwart M L (1999) Water incorporated into a food but not served with a food decreases energy intake in lean women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70: 448-455

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