Healthy eatingTo achieve a healthy, balanced diet, you need to eat the right amount and range of foods. Doing this can boost your health, save you money and improve your lifestyle.
Remember that to have a healthy diet you should eat:
- plenty of fruit and vegetables
- plenty of starchy foods such as rice, bread, pasta (try to choose wholegrain varieties when you can) and potatoes
- some protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs and pulses
- some milk and dairy foods
- just a small amount of foods high in fat, salt and sugar.
You don't have to make drastic changes to improve your diet. Small changes can make a big impact. For example:
- watch your portion size
- drink lots of water
- choose wholegrain or wholemeal bread, pasta or rice
- don't automatically add salt, sugar, butter, mayonnaise or other dressings
- choose low fat or reduced fat options in dairy products or dressings
- choose leaner cuts of meat and trim off all visible fat
- bulk out meat stews, casseroles or sauces with vegetables
- eat more fish, especially oily fish
- add salad to sandwiches
- choose fruit-based desserts
- use herbs, spices or onions to flavour food, instead of salt
- use non-stick pans so you don't need to use as much fat when cooking
- replace saturated fats like butter and lard with margarine and olive oil, and use sparingly
- avoid frying and grill, bake, boil or steam food instead
- drain off any excess fat after cooking.
More healthy eating tips
The eatwell plateIf you want to get the balance of your diet right, use the eatwell plate. Click on the image on the right to view a larger version of the eatwell plate.
The eatwell plate makes healthy eating easier to understand by showing the types and proportions of foods we need to have a healthy and well balanced diet.
The eatwell plate shows how much of what you eat should come from each food group. This includes everything you eat during the day including snacks. So try to eat:
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables
Most people know we should be eating more fruit and vegetables. But most of us aren't eating enough. Did you know that we should eat at least five portions of fruit and veg every day?
You can choose from fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced. But remember, while potatoes don't count towards your 5-a-day they do play an important role in your diet because they're a starchy food.
- Plenty of bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods
Starchy foods such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes are a really important part of a healthy diet. Try to choose wholegrain varieties whenever you can.
- Some milk and dairy foods
Milk and dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais are great sources of protein and vitamins A and B12. They're also an important source of calcium, which helps keep our bones strong. The calcium in dairy foods are easy for the body to absorb.
- Some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
Meat - Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, such as iron, selenium, zinc and B vitamins. It's also one of the main sources of vitamin B12.
Fish and shellfish - We should be eating at least two portions of fish a week including one of oily fish. Fish and shellfish are good sources of a variety of vitamins and minerals, and oily fish is particularly rich in omega 3 fatty acids. But if we want to make sure there are enough fish to eat now and in the future we need to choose fish from sustainable sources.
Eggs and pulses - Eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds are all good sources of protein and they're easy to prepare. But remember to take extra care if you're preparing eggs for anyone who is very young, pregnant or elderly.
- Just a small amount of foods and drinks high in fat and / or sugar
Fats - Having some fat in our diet helps the body absorb some vitamins. Fat is a good source of energy and it provides essential fatty acids that the body can't make itself. But eating lots of fat can make you more likely to put on weight because foods that are high in fat are also high in energy (calories). And eating a diet that is high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood, over time, which increases your chance of developing heart disease. So it's important to try to eat less fat and go for foods that are rich in unsaturated fats instead of saturated.
Sugars - Most adults and children in the UK eat too much sugar. We should all be trying to eat fewer sugary foods, such as sweets, cakes and biscuits, and drink fewer soft drinks.
Eating too much salt can raise blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. We can all take steps to eat less salt by checking food labels when shopping and trying not to add salt to food at home.
How much salt should we eat?Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day. Children should have even less.
6g of salt is about a teaspoonful. But remember that doesn't just include the salt you add to your food because most of the salt we eat is already in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, pasta sauce and soups.