What to eat on a weekly basis
Diet selection based on a rigid daily routine, not always possible for many people, is not necessary. Provided that there is an adequate intake of the essential nutrients every few days all will be well, even for substances which the body hardly stores, such as vitamin C and protein. For some items, such as iron and vitamin B12, which are very well stored, quite lengthy periods of low intake may do no harm. Sensible eating should include keeping to a good basic routine and avoiding alternating periods of marked over-consumption with periods of severe under-consumption. Many dietary plans have been devised over the years. They vary a lot, but the message of the sound ones is that the best diet is a varied one, with many different types of food being chosen. A healthy habit is to eat an adequate amount of protein each day, supplemented by enough fibre-rich cereals, pulses and vegetables to provide the bulk of the energy needed. Only a modest amount of fat is required. To this should be added two or more items of fruit each day. Such a diet will give the energy required plus all the essential substances needed for health even if chosen by a non-expert. The variety of the foods that can be used is very large and which items are eaten will depend on personal preference, availability, price and social and religious customs. If alcohol is used it should be taken in moderation with at least one alcohol-free day each week. For vegans the task of designing a suitable diet may be difficult and they usually need specialist advice. The various Chapters of this book give accounts of why nutrients are needed, how much is needed by different groups of people, in which foods the nutrients are most abundant and what may happen if things go wrong. When buying food be sure that it is in good condition.
Frozen food kept sufficiently cold may be better than unfrozen food that has been on a shelf at room temperature. Read the information boxes on food packages and compare different brands of the same item before making a choice. If there is no nutritional information given, try to avoid that product. Preservatives are not always undesirable and may indeed be necessary to keep some foods from spoiling quickly. Added colours are almost always unnecessary. When selecting items for a meal, eye-appeal is important. Have several different colours on the plate and have a variety of textures, some crunchy, some softer and moist. Contrasting flavours always make food more interesting. Use salt sparingly, preferably iodized. Hot food is not nutritionally better than cold food, although hot food may have a more interesting taste. A bright uncluttered table with attractive tableware will add to the enjoyment of food, as will an unhurried and calm atmosphere. Highly nutritious and attractive meals can be prepared at modest cost and quickly: there is little to be gained nutritionally in expending much money and tedious effort.
Recommended Dietary Amount (RDA)
The RDA indicates how much of a nutrient a person needs. It is given as a daily value but it is quite safe to take more or less on any particular day provided that the intake over several days is at least the RDA. It is not an absolute value but more of a guide and it has not been determined for all known nutrients. The values given are generous ones so as to meet the requirements of almost everybody. During periods of illness it may be desirable to exceed the RDA. For persons purposely losing weight it is essential to be sure to reach the RDA for protein, vitamins and minerals, which may require the taking of supplements.