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Now that spring has officially sprung and we find ourselves inspired to get our diets back on track, Patrick gives us the lowdown on what a well-balanced diet is, and how to achieve it.

The ideal daily diet should consist of:

  • Fat: 1 heaped teaspoon of ground seeds or 1 tablespoon of cold-pressed seed oil – sprinkle over salads to add flavour.
  • Protein: 3 servings of beans, lentils, quinoa, tofu (soya), or ‘seed’ vegetables. If you like, you can occasionally replace one of these with a small helping of fish or cheese, a free-range egg or lean meat.
  • Complex Carbohydrates: 4 servings of wholegrains, such as brown rice, millet, rye, oats, wholewheat, corn, quinoa, bread or pasta.
  • Fruit and vegetables: 6 servings of fruit and vegetables. Eat citrus fruits, apples, pears, berries and melons. The best vegetables are dark green, leafy and root vegetables.

It isn’t just what you eat that counts, but how and when you eat it. Follow these guidelines to get the most out of your diet:

  1. Graze, don’t gorge. Studies have consistently shown that people who eat little and often are healthier than those who just eat one or two large meals a day. For most people this means having breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a couple of snacks or fruit in between.
  2. Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dine like a pauper. There’s a lot of truth to this old saying. Because we all need food for energy during the day, it doesn’t make sense to eat half of your day’s food in the evening. Also, it is not a good idea to go to bed still digesting your dinner. As a general rule, try eat dinner early in the evening, leaving at least two hours before going to bed.
  3. Channel your inner cow – by chewing your food thoroughly that is. Eating at regular times also helps digest and get the most out of your food.
  4. Raw materials. Cooking food generally destroys the natural goodness of your food. To get the most from a healthy diet, try to eat something raw with every meal.
  5. Switch things up. Try to eat fruit as snacks and as dessert. Unlike protein-rich foods, fruit doesn’t need to be digested in the stomach and will pass rapidly through the stomach for digestion further on in the digestive tract. If you eat a fruit salad after a piece of chicken, the fruit will have to stay in the stomach longer than it needs to and may ferment. So, it is generally better not to have fruit or a fruit-based dessert immediately following a protein-rich main course or, at least, have a good break between courses.