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Diet tips for health and well-being

Drink 1.5-2 litres of fluids daily. This can include some coffee, tea and juice. The rest should be water, but beware that drinking too much water can flush essential nutrients from the system.

Have colour on your plate at every meal, in the form of fruit and veg. Have as wide a spectrum of colour in your diet as possible. Healthy compounds called phytochemicals give distinctive colours and flavours to foods. Vitamin supplements cannot replace them.

• Balance your food choices over the day and the week. Not every food has to be strictly healthy. When eating a food high in salt, sugar or fat, select other foods that are low in these ingredients. If you miss out on any food group one day, make up for it the next. Done this way, your food choices over several days will fit together into a healthy pattern.

• Know your pitfalls. To improve your eating habits, you first have to know what's wrong with them. Write down everything you eat for three days. Do you add a lot of butter, creamy sauces or salad dressings? Don't eliminate these flavoursome extras, just cut back your portions.

• Take your time. There are no "superfoods" or shortcuts to healthy eating, don't expect to mend your ways overnight. Attempting too much too soon can backfire. Begin to remedy excesses or deficiencies with modest changes. One day at a time, your system will adjust.

Supplied by the Irish Cancer Society, Dublin Nutrition Centre and Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute. See Food Pyramid at www.cancer.ie.

Irish Independent