Healthy balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet every day should give you all the nutrients you need to maintain good health. You need to include fruit, vegetables, starchy foods, dairy and limit your intake of foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar.
A healthy diet has:
- the right number of calories for how active you are
- a wide range of foods so that you’re getting a balanced diet and your body gets all the nutrients it needs
The Eatwell guide shows the different types of food and the portions needed to have a healthy, balanced diet.
It is split into five main food groups:
- fruit and vegetables
- potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods
- beans, pulses, fish, eggs and other proteins
- dairy and alternatives
- oils and spreads
Further information on the Eatwell guide and tips on getting the right proportions of the different food groups,is available at:
Healthy eating for different ages
The Eatwell guide applies to most people regardless of weight, dietary restrictions, preferences or ethnic origins, except children under two years old who have different nutritional needs.
However, your body can need more or less of certain foods as you grow.
Further information on healthy eating for different stages of life is available at:
- Feeding your baby
- Healthy eating for children
- Healthy eating for adolescents
- Healthy eating for older adults
The difference between men and women’s diets
Women don't need to eat as much as a man because on average a woman's body does not use as much energy.
This is partly because a man's body is made up of more muscle than a woman's body, which contains more fat.
Muscle uses up a lot more energy than fat.
Women need more iron.
Menstruation (periods) can lead to a shortage of iron, particularly if you have heavy periods or your diet is low in iron.
The best source of iron is red meat. It can also be found in pulses (such as beans and lentils), bread, green vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals.
Healthy body, healthy mind
Below are some top tips for a healthy lifestyle.
Being physically active can help to:
- improve your physical health
- boost your mental health
- maintain a healthy weight
- manage stress
Being active doesn’t mean hours at the gym - you can find ways to fit more activity into your daily life. For example, walking, gardening, dancing, swimming, exploring the outdoors or cycling.
Try to be more active every day, set yourself a target and if you don’t meet it one day, don’t dwell on it, carry on the next day with your target in mind.
Don’t skip meals
Eat regularly - three meals a day, that is breakfast, lunch and an evening meal. Try to avoid nibbling in between meals and if you are hungry snack on fruit and vegetables.
A healthy breakfast is an important part of a balanced diet and provides some of the vitamins and minerals you need for good health.
Wholemeal cereal with fruit on top is one suggestion for a tasty, nutritious breakfast.
Check Nutrition labels
Nutritional labels (traffic light labels) give you information to help you make a healthier and more informed choice when deciding which food and drink products to buy.
These show if the food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt.
Further information is available at:
Eat higher fibre foods
High fibre foods help you feel full. They also help prevent constipation.
Good sources of fibre are found in:
- wholegrain cereals
Drink plenty of fluids
It can be easy to confuse thirst with hunger. Aim for six to eight glasses of fluid a day.
Water, lower-fat milks and lower-sugar or sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee all count.
Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are full of colour, flavours and textures and provide us with important vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Aim for five portions a day.
Limit foods high in fat, sugar and salt
Regularly consuming food and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar can increase the risk of obesity and tooth decay.
For further information on foods you should eat less of and in smaller amounts, see:
Cut down on alcohol
For many people, drinking alcohol is enjoyable and a part of socialising, but it is worth remembering that alcohol is high in calories and if it is taken often can interrupt sleep, lead to unwanted weight gain and be a trigger for anxiety.
Use smaller plates
Using a smaller plate can help you eat smaller portions.
Watch out for large portions when you are eating out. Instead of choosing a main and side why not go for a starter and a side instead.
Choose a side salad instead of a side of chips.
Be mindful when you are eating
Eat slowly to give your body a chance to tell you its satisfied.
It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full.