All foods give us energy (also called calories). Energy is our power supply, it is essential for everything we do – walking, running, shopping, dancing, gardening and even sleeping! Did you know we burn around 60–80kcal (depending on gender and body size) each hour we’re asleep!
Fats are an essential part of our diet. They provide energy and carry the essential fat–soluble vitamins. Fats also contribute to our enjoyment of foods, providing taste and texture. On average we tend to eat too much fat, especially saturated fats. When it comes to fats it’s all a question of balance. A fat free diet would mean that we miss out on fat soluble vitamins, but a high fat diet often results in weight gain (fat contains 9 calories per gram) and increases the likelihood of a raised cholesterol level.
Sugars are part of the carbohydrates group and all provide us with 4 calories per gram. When thinking about sugars we typically picture the white crystalline sugar (sucrose) found in our sugar bowls but, there are in fact many different types of sugars in our diets, some occurring naturally in fruits and milk and others added to our foods and drinks. Pure sugars only provide energy and no other nutrients such as vitamins or minerals and therefore make little nutritional contribution to our diets. However sugars have wide range of functions in foods; adding flavour and sweetness to foods, texture, colour and helping to preserve foods for example in jams and marmalades.
Salt is a mineral which is also known by its chemical name sodium chloride. It’s the sodium part of salt that is linked with the health problems associated with a high salt intake. Salt is used in foods and drink in many ways, including enhancing food flavours and as a preservative e.g. in meats or frankfurters.
For more information about how salt can affect your health, please click here.
Fibre is a type of carbohydrate found in plant foods (e.g. cereals, fruits, vegetables and pulses) that the body is not able to fully digest and absorb. However although we don’t fully digest and absorb fibre, the vital goodness it provides can be seen in our overall health and well being – both in terms of digestive health and that of our whole bodies.
Water accounts for around two thirds of our body and is an important part of our diet. While we are able to survive a while without food, we need to replenish our water stores frequently. Water plays a role in all body systems – forming part of our blood, helping the body to transport vitamins and minerals to cells, vital for brain function and helping to control body temperature.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are substances that the body needs in small amounts to keep fit and healthy, but they provide no energy. There are a number of vitamins and minerals essential for great health and they are found in a wide range of foods and drinks. By eating a healthy balanced diet you should be able to get all of the vitamins and minerals that you need each day. There are many different vitamins and minerals, but they are all essential in the functioning and maintenance of a healthy body. Although vitamins and mineral play vital roles in our health they contribute no energy to the diet. Each vitamin and mineral is needed in different amounts and for different purposes within the body. The amount needed can vary throughout life and through the different life stages.
5–a–day fruits and vegetables
Eating more fruits and vegetables could make a dramatic difference to your everyday health and to the chances of developing a chronic disease such as heart disease or some cancers.
More detailed information about fruits and vegetables, portions sizes, tips and recipes can be found on the NHS website.
When you wake up in the morning it's likely that you haven't eaten for up to 12 hours. So the first meal of the day is crucial, because it helps refuel the body and brain with energy and nutrients after a night's sleep. Research studies have shown that people (both adults and children) who eat breakfast are generally more alert and in a better mood than those who skip breakfast. Children are able to work harder and do better at school and adults respond more effectively to the challenges of their day (whether at work or in the home).
Breakfast cereals make the ideal breakfast choice as they are easy to prepare, quick to eat and are a tasty nutritious breakfast. Breakfast cereals are a 'nutrient dense' food, i.e. while supplying only a modest amount of energy (calories) they make a significant contribution to intakes of essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Many of us feel guilty for snacking, assuming that all snack foods are bad and that these have a negative impact on the healthiness of our diets. However snacking is not a new phenomenon and is a perfectly normal part of the diets of both adults and children. Snacking can in fact have a useful nutritional role, boosting the intakes of a range of essential vitamins and minerals in the diet.
- Regular meals and snacks form the foundation for all healthy eating advice.
- Contrary to popular belief regular snacking does not make you fat – and in fact planned snacking can help to control hunger and assist with weight loss.
- Scientific research has suggested that regular snacking can help to control blood sugar levels and also levels of fats such as cholesterol in the blood.
- Studies show that eating a carbohydrate–rich snack during the morning or afternoon boosts the supply of fuel to the brain, improving performance of mentally demanding tasks at work or school.
Nestlé and snacking:
Nestlé make a wide range of different snack foods, from sweets and chocolate to water, savoury snacks and delicious coffees. All of the foods Nestlé produces are labelled clearly so that you can choose snacks that suit your diet and lifestyle.
Whether you choose snacks for an occasional treat, or regularly munch something between meals to keep your energy levels up, there is plenty of choice available. And the Guideline Daily Amounts labelling information makes it easy for you to check which foods are best for you to keep a healthy balance.