I find the word healthy a bit ambiguous. The chances are everyone will have a slightly different definition of the word, and that’s fine because health is personal.
Depending on a person's goals and health status, a "healthy" diet can vary greatly. Bear this in mind and try not to compare your diet to others, you don't know their goals and health status. Instead focus on ensuring that your diet is the best for YOU!
With that said, there are healthy eating guidelines that apply to us all, and should form the basis of a healthy diet. The general principle of a healthy diet, and a healthy lifestyle, is balance. One of my mottoes is “everything in moderation”. I don’t restrict myself from eating anything and if I fancy some chocolate, I have some. That being said, if I ate just chocolate all day and had a salad for dinner it wouldn't be considered healthy!
Some people refer to the 80/20 rule, which recommends eating nutritious food 80% of the time and having those "treat" foods (and beverages ;)) 20% of the time. While I don't recommend following any strict food rules, I know that as humans we love specific instructions. (That's why we buy the crazy diet books and shakes and pills- we want the easiest, quickest answer to health and we want exact rules. More on that later!). If you struggle with finding the balance in your diet, refer to this 80/20 rule. If you reflect on your diet and think it was more 50/50, try this week to have a greater variety in your diet.
A good tool for achieving a balanced and varied diet is the Eatwell guide below. It provides some recommendations for how much of each food group we should aim for and provides some ideas of foods in each group to help you fill your plate. For a meal to resemble the Eatwell plate it should include a range of foods from each group.
So what are the food groups? I know everyone will have a rough idea, but for the purposes of completeness of information let’s go lover them.
Carbohydrates- 50% of your energy should come from potatoes, bread, pasta etc.
Fruit and vegetables- at least 5 portions per day, this can include fresh, frozen, dried and canned. 1 portion may be from 150ml of a fruit juice or smoothie.
Proteins- Around 0.75g per kg bodyweight per day is sufficient. This can be obtained from meat, eggs, fish, beans and tofu. Protein powder, protein water and other added protein items are generally unnecessary to meet this recommendation.
Dairy- milk, cheese, yogurt and alternative dairy sources containing calcium. If you are choosing to use alternative milks opt for those fortified with calcium (and vitamin D). Remember that homemade oat/almond/cashew milk WILL NOT contain the same level of nutrients as those commercially produced and fortified.
Oils & spreads- sparingly use vegetable, coconut, rapeseed and olive oils, butter and other vegetable based spreads.
Use the Eatwell Plate to help you plan your intakes of the food groups and to indicate what group different foods fall into.