AS the nation embarks on it’s New Year healthy eating purge, dietitian Heather Osborn shares some simple, easy-to-follow tips for families wanting to improve their diet.

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Heather, who delivers Cook and Eat classes as part of her role as a dietitian for Live Well Suffolk, explained: “I think for us the main issues we deal with are around people’s understanding of what healthier eating means.

“We want to help people understand the Eat Well plate and how portions of food should be spread out.

“There are so many mixed health messages that people can get confused, but we want to go back to basics.”

The team at Live Well Suffolk promote both the long and short term health benefits of a balanced diet, explaining to families that eating healthily can improve your mood and appearance, as well as helping you avoid major health problems such as diabetes and obesity.

“Obesity has become a huge issue nationally and locally, with 1 in 3 children at Year 6 being classed as obese, this is due to a number of issues including the fact that people are becoming less active and portions are getting bigger especially for children. If you go to a restaurant you get one sized meal that is supposed to fit everyone, whether they are two or 10.

“Children should be eating from a child-sized plate, the same size as a tea plate until they are aged about 12, depending on when they have their growth spurt.

As a rule of thumb, families are advised to divide their plate into thirds when they dish up a main meal - with, starchy carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice and cereals making up a third of the plate, vegetables or fruit making up another third, and a smaller portion of protein - either meat, fish, beans or pulses.

“Dairy foods should also be included in your daily intake, and foods high in fats or sugars should be kept as treats,” said heather.

If embarking on a healthy eating plan is one of your New Year resolutions, she suggests you turn the way you plan your meals on it’s head and try a fresh approach.

“Most people start with their protein and plan their meal from there, but you need to start planning meals around the starchy carbohydrates, then think about the vegetables and the fruit and ensure you are getting the recommended five-a-day.”

Going back to portion control, Heather advises you allow around 75-100g of meat per adult, or 100-120g of fish for a main meal, adding: “Any extra protein will be stored as fat.”

Relating this to the classic spaghetti bolognese, she said: “The pasta should make up about a third of your plate, then you should have about 75-100g of meat per person which can be thought of as roughly a handful.

“To bulk up the sauce, you should add plenty of vegetables such as mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers and carrots - this way you can reduce the amount of meat you need. It will be healthier and cheaper.”

Throughout January, Heather will be providing a weekly recipe that is both cost effective and healthy.

Have you made any New Year’s resolution?

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