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.

Getting started

A healthy diet has:

  • the right number of calories for how active you are - the average man needs around 2,500 calories a day and the average woman needs 2,000 calories
  • a wide range of foods so that you’re getting a balanced diet and your body gets all the nutrients it needs – you can do this by following the Eatwell Guide

Healthy eating for different ages

This page provides an overview of what makes up a healthy, balanced diet. However, your body can need more or less of certain foods as you grow.

The following pages provide information on healthy eating for different stages of your development:

Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables should be over one third of the food you eat every day.  Try to eat at least five portions of various fruit and vegetables each day.

Fruit and vegetables are sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre. You can eat:

  • fresh
  • frozen
  • tinned
  • dried
  • juiced

Starchy foods

Starchy foods should be over one third of the food you eat every day.  These foods provide energy and nutrients.You can eat high-fibre wholegrain varieties such as:

  • wholewheat pasta
  • brown rice
  • potatoes with skins on

There are some higher-fibre types of white bread and pasta.

Dairy or dairy alternatives

Milk, cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais are sources of:

  • protein
  • vitamins
  • calcium

You should try lower-fat and lower-sugar products like one per cent fat milk, reduced-fat cheese or plain low-fat yoghurt.

This food group also includes unsweetened, calcium-fortified:

  • soya milk
  • soya yoghurt
  • soya cheeses

These are suitable alternatives to dairy products.

Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein

These foods are sources of protein, vitamins and minerals. Beans, peas and lentils are alternatives to meat because these foods are lower in fat and higher in fibre and protein.

You should choose lean cuts of meat and mince. If you eat more than 90g red or processed meat a day, reduce your daily intake to 70g or less.

Processed meat includes:

  • bacon
  • sausages
  • cured meats
  • reformed meat products

You should eat two portions of fish every week, including one portion of salmon or mackerel.

Unsaturated oils and spreads

All fats are high in energy. You need to reduce these in your diet. Saturated fats can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood. This can increase your risk of developing heart disease.

Unsaturated fats are healthier fats and include vegetable, rapeseed, olive and sunflower oils.

Foods high in fat, salt and sugar

Foods high in fat, sugar and salt can cause different health problems such as:

You should eat these foods less often and in small amounts. 

These foods include:

  • chocolate
  • cakes
  • biscuits
  • sugary soft drinks
  • butter
  • ghee
  • ice cream

Sugar

Sugary foods and drinks are often high in calories and could contribute to weight gain. You should limit the amount of sugar in your diet and check food labels before buying.

Salt

Even if you don’t add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much. Most breakfast cereals, soups, breads and sauces already contain salt. You should check food labels before you add salt.

Drinking fluids

Health experts recommend that you should drink six to eight cups or glasses of fluid a day. Water, lower-fat milks and lower-sugar or sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee all count as fluids.

Fruit juice or smoothies

Fruit juice and smoothies also count as fluids but contain free sugars that can damage teeth. You should limit these drinks to a total of 150ml a day.

Get active and be a healthy weight

Eating well is important in maintaining a healthy weight. Physical activity can also help you to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can lead to health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes. Being underweight could also affect your health.

Being active doesn’t mean hours at the gym - you can find ways to fit more activity into your daily life. For example, getting off the bus one stop early on your journey and walking.

Eating breakfast

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.

For more ideas about preparing healthy meals, go to:

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