- Food Pyramid
- Losing Weight
Seven ways to stay healthy
Back to previous page
Healthy eating is essential for good health.
This section covers the essentials of Healthy Eating, outlining which foods you should have large amounts of, and which foods should really be kept for treats and special occasions. There is no such thing as bad foods, only bad eating habits! There is no one food which you need to avoid completely, just get the amount and frequency with which you eat these foods correct.
The Food Guide Pyramid is an outline of what to eat each day based on the Dietary Guidelines. It is not a rigid prescription but a general guide that lets you choose a healthful diet that's right for you.
The Pyramid calls for eating a variety of foods to get the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need and at the same time the right amount of calories to maintain healthy weight. Different foods are arranged on different levels or shelves. The higher up the pyramid you go, the less of foods on that shelf you should eat.
Use the Pyramid to help you eat better every day...the Dietary Guidelines way. Start with plenty of breads, cereals, rice, pasta, vegetables, and fruits. Add 2-3 servings from the milk group and 2-3 servings from the meat group. Remember to go easy on fats, oils, and sweets, the foods in the small tip of the Pyramid.
How to use the Food Pyramid
Each item is one serving. The number of servings you need each day is given for each shelf of the Food Pyramid. Choose whatever combination of plates you like to make up your total number.
The following are examples of one serving in each group:
Fruit & Vegetable
1 Sliced bread
1 Piece fresh fruit
1 Glass milk
1/2 Glass fruit juice
1 Carton yogurt
3 oz nuts
1 Bowl cereal
Bowl homemade soup
1 oz cheese
2 oz cheddar cheese
Bottom shelf - Breads, cereals, potatoes, pasta and rice
Number of servings a day: 6 servings or more
These foods are high in energy, but low in fat. It's what you put on bread or the sauce you use with pasta or rice that makes them high in fat. Choose wholegrain and whole meal varieties of bread, rolls and breakfast cereals.
Fruit and vegetables
Number of servings a day: 5 servings or more
Fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Do not overcook as this may destroy the vitamin content. Steaming or microwaving, if cooking is needed, helps maintain vitamin content. Frozen vegetables are just as good as fresh.
Milk, cheese and yoghurt
Number of servings a day: 3 servings for children and adults and 5 for teenagers or for pregnant or breast-feeding mothers.
These foods are good sources of calcium and vitamin D for strong bones and protein, the building block for all parts of the body. If you are overweight or have high cholesterol, choose low-fat varieties (they have the same amount of calcium as full fat varieties).
Meat, poultry, fish and alternatives
Number of servings a day: 2 servings a day, 3 during pregnancy
These foods are a good source of protein and iron (for healthy blood) - red meat is the richest source of iron. Choose four ounces (100 grams) of lean red meat, i.e. two servings three to four times a week. Have oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, trout, herring or salmon at least twice a week. They help thin the blood and prevent clotting.
The top shelf - Others
Number of servings: No specific serving size is given for the fats, oils, and sweets group because the message is USE SPARINGLY.
Oils and fats
Use about 1oz low fat spread/low fat butter or 1oz margarine or butter each day. Use oils sparingly.
Sugars, confectionary, cakes, biscuits and high fat snack foods
If you drink or eat snacks containing sugar, limit the number of times you take them throughout the day. Eat high fat snacks in only small amounts, and not too frequently. Choose lower fat, sugar free alternatives.
In moderation, preferably with meals and have some alcohol free days.
If you are trying to lose weight you need to stick with the minimum amounts recommended by the pyramid. Be sure to eat at least the lowest number of servings from the five major food groups listed below. You need them for the vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and protein they provide. Just try to pick the lowest fat choices from the food groups.
Back to previous page
How does someone end up being overweight?
The living body organises and uses nutrients to create, maintain, repair and power itself. People have different shapes and have different lifestyles.Very simply, if you eat more than you use up, the body gets bigger. If you eat less than you use up, it gets smaller. This is the energy balance. This energy balance determines whether you are gaining or losing weight. Short term imbalances, may not create significant changes, but even small imbalances that are maintained over longer periods can give rise to significant weight gain, over a few years. The reverse is also true.It is therefore important to realise, that healthy eating and exercise are not just a means to try get to a desired weight, these good habits are for life!
If you are overweight or obese, why bother lose weight?
Obesity is not just an appearance issue; it can damage your health. Being 40% overweight doubles your chances of dying prematurely, compared to someone with an average weight. The more overweight a person is, the higher the risk of health problems.
Obesity has been linked to several serious medical conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Sleep Apnoea
- Obesity is also associated with low self esteem, depression, urinary incontinence and skin rashes.
If you are obese or overweight, losing 5 – 10Kg (or about 10% of your current weight) can reduce the associated risks significantly. If you already have diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure, then reducing your weight can improve your control of these illnesses and reduce their complications. And you may even reduce the number of medications you need or are taking!
Healthy eating is essential for good health. You may have heard " you are what you eat", and there is considerable truth in this. Your diet (the food you normally consume) can determine whether you develop certain diseases or protect yourself from other diseases.Is your current weight healthy?You can figure out if you are of normal weight/overweight by calculating your Body Mass Index. This result will give you an indication as to whether to need to lose weight from a medical point of view.
To do this:
- Take your height (in metres)
- Multiply this figure by itself
- Divide this result into your weight (in kgs)
How did you score? If your BMI is
Less than 19
20 – 25
25 - 30
This scale is suitable for use for adults only
Getting started on losing weight
Remember the energy balance. The trick is to use up more than you take in. By making reductions in the food you eat, and increase your exercise level, and sustaining this, you will achieve your target.
Losing weight and keeping it off is not easy. Slow, sustained weight loss is the best way forward.
Get into the mind set for change. Unless you are motivated to change, nothing will actually change.
Some tips that will hopefully be helpful:
1. Set the realistic Goals e.g. 10 % weight loss in 6 months,walk 45 minutes 3-4 times per week
2. Reward small successes. This can encourage you to attain your goals. Eg buy clothes, massage
3. Keep a diary of how many calories, portions, servings you eat per day and amount of exercise.
4. Avoid eating triggers. Highlight and be aware of situations that encourage undesired eating and avoid or adapt accordingly eg: go for a walk on coffee break instead of sitting down to eat. Don't keep much junk food at home.
5. Eat differently. Eat more slowly. This will help prevent over-eating. Eating lots of vegetables or fruit can also make you feel fuller. Start a meal with a glass of water Use a small plate, and stick to the correct portion size. Set a regular eating schedule and stick to it. Don't skip meals.
6. Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day -it helps detoxify the system and will make you feel better.
Back to previous page
Regular exercise is important for our health.
Being active regularly
- gives you more energy
- makes you feel good
- makes you look better
- helps you relax and sleep better
- increases your stamina
- strengthens muscles and bones-reducing the incidence of osteoporosis
- helps regulate your appetite and burns up calorie
- improves your mobility at any age
- strengthens your heart
- lowers blood pressure
- reduces your cholesterol
- reduces risk of developing diabetes
- Check with your Doctor which is the most suitable exercise for you (depending on health status)
- Choose activities that you will enjoy
- Set aside regular exercise time
- Set short term goals
Exercise can be in the form of walking, dancing, swimming, badminton, jogging, golf, hill walking, cycling, gardening or many other forms.
Exercise should be of average to moderate intensity, 20-60 minutes per session and carried out 3-5 times/week.
Walking is an effective, accessible and is one of the easiest ways to be physically active.
How to fit at least 30 minutes of walking into a busy day.
- Leave the car at home and walk to the shops, bank, post office, church or visit a friend.
- Use the stairs, instead of the lift.
- Take the long way. If your local shop is nearby, extend the route to give yourself some extra walking time.
- Go for a walk at lunch hour.
- Walk your children to school. Accompany your children in the morning and walk at a fairly fast pace once you are on your own.
- Get off the bus one or two stops before your destination and walk the rest of the way.
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, including heart attacks and stroke. Smokers are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than non-smokers. However, once you stop smoking your health improves immediately and you begin to reduce your risk of heart disease. Low tar cigarettes or cigars do not reduce the health risks.
Smoking increases blood pressure, causes narrowing of the arterial blood vessels and increases "bad cholesterol" (LDL cholesterol) as well as affecting the lungs. It is linked with several serious health problems including:
- Heart Disease
- Lung Cancer
- Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema
- Disease of the arteries of the legs (peripheral vascular disease)
- Bladder cancer
- Cancer of the throat and oesophagus (gullet)
- Reduced fertility, miscarriage, stillbirth and Reduced birth weight for babies have been linked to maternal smoking
Why should I quit?
The health benefits of stopping smoking become evident within a very short time period.
- As soon as you stop smoking, body will begin to rid itself of tobacco toxins
- Your clothes, hair and breath will smell fresher
- After just 20 minutes, your circulation will improve
- Within eight hours nicotine levels in the blood will have halved
- Within a few weeks your sense of taste and smell will improve
- Your overall general health will improve, you will feel fitter and breathing problems will gradually disappear
- Within a year or two of not smoking your risk of having a heart attack is reduced by half that it would have been had you continued
- After three years of not smoking your risk of having a heart attack is similar to that of a life-long non-smoker
- After 10 years of not smoking the risk of getting lung cancer is halved. The longer you stop the lower the risk
- You will save money
- Friends and family will also benefit
The sooner you decide to quit, the better but remember: it is never too late to quit smoking.
- Educate yourself about the harmful affects of smoking and the benefits you and your family will reap if you stop. Consider the financial and social benefits of quitting also.
- When you feel motivated to quit, pick a date to stop and stick to it.
- Occupy yourself to avoid thinking about the craving
- Tell those around you that you are stopping so that they can give you encouragement
- Take exercise.
- Take one day at a time. Cravings will come and go. Keep positive.
- Change your routine. Smoking is often linked to certain times and situations, such as the first smoke in the morning, and drinking tea, coffee or alcohol. Avoid those situations by doing something different at these times.
- If there is a stop smoking support group near you consider joining. Contact your nearest health board for information about a group in your area.
A support line is available from the National Smoker's - "Quitline" 1850 201 203
The Irish Cancer Society recommends the following tips to deal with cravings, known as "the four Ds"
- Delay at least three minutes and the urge will pass.
- Drink a glass of water or fruit juice.
- Distract yourself. Move away from the situation.
- Deep breathe. Breathe slowly and deeply.
Don't be put off if at first you don't succeed.
Once off the cigarettes - stay off. Just one cigarette can start the habit again.
Will nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) help?
There are several drugs available to help you succeed to stop smoking and lessen the withdrawal symptoms.
Nicotine replacement therapies are scientifically proven to improve many smokers' chances of quitting successfully. They are available in tablet form, chewing gum, nasal spray or patches and are available without prescription at your local pharmacy The choice of which form of nicotine replacement to take is an individual one. Most are taken for a maximum of three months, during which time the smoker is gradually weaned.
- Nicotine patches. Initially, one patch is applied every 24hrs. Side effects include nausea, dizziness, headaches, difficulty sleeping and skin irritation.
- Nicotine tablets. 1 -2 tablets are placed under the tongue. These tablets can interact with certain drugs like warfarin and theophyllines.
- Nicotine nasal spray. One spray is applied to each nostril as required but one should not exceed 64 sprays a day.
- Nicotine inhalator. This looks like a cigarette. It is inhaled when the urge to smoke arises.
- Nicotine chewing gum. A piece of gum is chewed for about 30 minutes when the urge to smoke arises.
Nicotine replacement is not indicated for those with severe heart problems, those who have had a recent stroke, women who are pregnant and women who are breastfeeding.
Oral Medication. These are nicotine-free tablet available on prescription only. They work to help reduce nicotine cravings and alleviate the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal such as irritability, restlessness and difficulty in concentrating.
You will need to speak to your Doctor to decide which is the best treatment option for you
Information to appear shortly.
Seven ways to stay Healthy
- At least one in five deaths are smoking related! DON'T SMOKE. Ask your Doctor to help you stop.
- Have you blood pressure checked every three years.
- Keep your weight down and exercise regularly.
- Women: Have a cervical smear at least every three years. These are to PREVENT cancer not to detect cancer
- Men: Examine your testicles regularly. Report any lumps to your Doctor.
- Women: Examine your breasts regularly. Report any lumps to your Doctor.
- Regular intake of twenty-one units of alcohol or more per week (fourteen units in women) will damage your health. STAY LOW! (one unit= half a pint of beer/small glass of wine or one short).
DO remember we are here to help you stay healthy. We can offer advice and help you in becoming healthy and maintaining a healthier lifestyle, e.g. dietary advice, help with stopping smoking, immunisations and well person checks.
Back to previous page