COLUMN: Small changes can improve health by Caroline Mackie

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Achieving an absolutely perfect diet is, in all honesty, probably a bit beyond most of us.

Whether it’s balanced meals, good versus bad fats, low carb or low cholesterol – there’s always some new advice popping up to confuse us.

But that’s not to say that we shouldn’t at least try and get our approach to food right and there are several tried and tested ways to get your diet on the right road.

You might have heard them all before, but it’s always worth repeating good advice!

First of all we should be following a diet that’s mainly based on vegetables, fruits, beans and pulses, wholegrains and fish.

So less of the high salt ready meals, fast foods and sugary treats that we’re all guilty of giving into sometimes.

In addition, we should all be trying to reduce the overall energy density of our diet. Energy density is the amount of energy (or calories) in our food.

Practical ways to cut down on energy consumption may include:

• Reducing how often you eat high calorie foods such as fried foods, biscuits, savoury snacks, sweets and drinks made with full fat milk or cream

• Reading food and drink nutrition labels to help you choose options that are lower in fat and sugar

• Choosing smaller portions or avoiding additional servings of high calorie foods.

Next to calories the second biggest dietary challenge is trying to cut down on your total fat intake.

But there are good and bad fats so it can be hard to know which to avoid.

In a nutshell we should try to cut down on saturated fat which is found in fatty meats, full-fat milk and dairy products and baked foods like pizza, biscuits and cakes.

Instead we should choose healthier foods containing unsaturated fatty acids including avocados, nuts and fish.

Vegetable oils such as rapeseed, olive and sunflower, and spreads made from these oils, are healthier alternatives to those that are rich in saturated fats such as lard, butter, palm and coconut oil.

Finally you might want to try and increase the amount of high fibre or wholegrain foods that you eat.

How about choosing wholemeal bread and pasta and wholegrain rice instead?

You can also opt for higher-fibre foods such as oats, fruit and vegetables, beans, peas and lentils in place of food and drinks high in fat or sugar.

Now you’re armed with the basics, why not tweak your diet a little – it could have a huge impact on your health and happiness.