How to eat well?
A diet that combines pleasure and balance is a component of a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet provides the body with energy and essential nutrients and protective substances, influences physical and mental well-being and helps to prevent illness. To find out how to eat well, you can refer to the Swiss Food Pyramid, which shows a balanced diet in pictures.
The foods on the lower levels are needed by the body in larger quantities, while those on the upper levels are sufficient in smaller quantities. A healthy diet does not require any prohibitions. It is simply the result of combining foods in the right proportions.
In order to find out how a balanced meal is composed, the optimal plate illustrates a balanced main meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
It shows the foods that make up a complete meal and the average proportions in which to use each of these foods to make a balanced meal.
These proportions should not be taken literally, as they depend on the nature of the foods on the menu and on individual needs, but they give an average order of magnitude for most adults.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner provide the body with the energy it needs on a regular basis. Those who wish can also eat more small meals during the day. The main meals can be supplemented with snacks (in the morning, afternoon and/or evening).
Snacks provide an energy boost and offer an additional opportunity to vary the food intake. If you don't snack, make sure you supplement your plate with a second vegetable, fruit or dairy product.
The rhythm of eating varies from person to person. Everyone should find his or her own rhythm and avoid continuous snacking.
Source: Swiss Society of Nutrition
In recent years, the number of people who are overweight has increased steadily. The World Health Organisation even speaks of an obesity epidemic. At the same time, the obsession with being thin has never been greater in our society and the number of miracle weight loss recipes is increasing. But what is the right balance?
The desire to lose weight quickly leads many people to turn to quick fixes. The promises they offer are often very tempting and we unfortunately forget the dangers we face. There are all kinds of diets, weight loss products and services. Low-calorie, high-protein or low-carbohydrate diets, herbal teas, meal replacements and pills of all kinds are just a few examples of weight loss solutions, the number of which is constantly increasing. The vast majority of them ignore the reasons why you gain weight, offer false promises and can be very expensive.
Weight loss diets promise dramatic results in a short time, but is this realistic? Weight loss is often seen in the short term, but the problem lies in long-term maintenance. When our bodies are deprived of food, our metabolism slows down, our mood changes, it is harder to concentrate and we lack energy. We also develop a fixation on food. After returning to a normal diet, appetite increases, we eat more and our body builds up reserves. Thus, all the weight lost can be regained quickly, and even more. On the other hand, many weight loss diets do not promote healthy lifestyle habits and better food choices, which is detrimental to maintaining weight loss.
Many people are concerned about weight loss and end up on diets that are often more harmful than beneficial. Don't be taken in by these miracle formulas but rather follow the path of health by making wise choices that can be advised by a health professional (nutritionist or dietician).
The vegetarian diet is a diet that excludes animal proteins from the diet for ethical, environmental or health reasons. Although there are several variations of vegetarianism, meat, fish, seafood and eggs are often excluded from the diet in favour of plant proteins such as soya, pulses or cereals.
It is known that people following a vegetarian diet have a lower BMI than the average, which is supported by the fact that adopting a restrictive diet such as vegetarianism leads to a better balance of food intake and less consumption of food from the food industry.
Moreover, the vegetarian diet, by excluding meat, helps to fight against cardiovascular disease, which is mainly caused by the saturated fatty acids found in meat. Vegetarians generally have a lower cholesterol level than the omnivorous population because of the absence of fatty meat in their diet. If properly practised, the vegetarian diet is rich in fibre, provided in particular by vegetables and wholegrain cereals, and thus helps to combat constipation, diabetes and transit disorders.
It also reduces the risk of prostate and colon cancer, thanks to an abundance of fruit and vegetables, a low-fat diet and the absence of smoked, charred or nitrite-containing meat.
However, these health effects are not just the result of not eating animal foods. It is important to carefully select a variety of foods to avoid vitamin and mineral deficiencies (daily fruit and vegetables, dairy products or calcium-enriched soy or rice drinks, a portion of tofu, quorn, tempeh or seitan, and regular legumes and cereals).
The conventional wisdom is that metabolism is the only factor to consider when determining body weight. A lean person who indulges in hamburgers and fries and never gains weight might explain this by citing their "fast metabolism", while an overweight person might blame their metabolism for their excess weight.
Metabolism is simply the process by which your body converts your food into energy to perform its functions. In truth, it is the ratio of the number of calories consumed to the amount of energy expended that determines whether your weight stays constant or whether you gain or lose a few pounds.
How do you calculate this magic number?
To start with, think about the activities in your body that require energy. Even if you decided to lie in bed all day without moving, your body would still need energy. Simply breathing, circulating blood throughout the body, and developing and repairing cells all require energy. The number of calories your body consumes to perform these basic activities is called the basal metabolic rate. For most people, these basic activities account for a large proportion of daily calorie expenditure. Physical activity and digesting food require our bodies to expend additional calories.
The basal metabolic rate varies from person to person, and certain factors can influence a person's caloric requirement:
- Body size: just as an SUV is a bigger gas guzzler than a sedan, larger people have a greater caloric need than smaller people. Therefore, your height and weight will affect the calories you burn.
- Body composition: muscle requires more energy than fat, so the more muscle mass you have compared to your body fat, the more calories your body will need to function.
- Age: Metabolism naturally slows down as you get older. In addition, many people lose muscle mass and gain fat as they age, another factor that accounts for a slower metabolism.
- Gender: Men tend to have more muscle mass than women, hence their slightly higher metabolic rate.
Your daily calorie requirement depends on your basal metabolic rate, the number of calories you burn during physical activity, and the number of calories your body needs to break down food and absorb nutrients.
The calculation is simple. To maintain your weight, you need to expend as many calories per day as you consume. To lose weight, your energy expenditure must exceed your caloric intake, whereas to gain weight, you must reverse the relationship, supplying your body with more calories than it expends.