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The fab four... how to balance the perfect diet

WITH the huge volume of nutrition information available and often contrasting views on fad diets, it can be difficult to understand what constitutes a balanced meal for your family. Here, I have shared the basic nutrition building blocks, which should be incorporated into your family's meals on a daily basis.

The four food groups are:

Fruit and vegetables

Complex carbohydrates

Protein-rich foods

Milk and dairy products

Each food group contains a variety of nutrients that you need to stay healthy, try to include them all in every meal. Vegetables, fruit and starch should make up most of your meal – about three-quarters of the plate. The remaining quarter should be lean meat, such as chicken or red meat, or a meat alternative, such as beans or lentils or fish.

Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre. They're also low in fat and calories, making them excellent as snacks and as part of any meal.

To boost your family's intake, try adding fresh fruit to cereal or having a bowl of salad on the table with each of your main meals.

Complex carbohydrates

To keep your family's energy up, complex carbohydrates are essential. These foods include pasta, rice, potatoes, noodles, couscous, oats and bread – to name a few. They're packed with energy and contain fibre, iron and B vitamins. Wholegrain varieties are the best source to choose.

Protein-rich foods

We all need protein for growth and development. Protein-rich foods help keep you fuller for longer.

You can find protein in meat, fish and pulses.

If you're looking for some inspiration for dinner this evening, why not try Nicha Maguire's delicious recipe for herb- marinated salmon with spicy rice...

Milk & dairy

Make sure to include a calcium-rich food in your balanced family meal, such as some cheese or a glass of milk.