Updated: Oct 4, 2019
These eight practical tips cover the basics of healthy eating, and can help you make healthier choices. The key to a healthy diet is to eat the right amount of calories and a wide range of foods to ensure that you're getting a balanced diet and that your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.
It is recommended that men have around 2,500 calories a day. Women should have around 2,000 calories a day. Most adults are eating more calories than they need, and should eat fewer calories.
Base your meals on starchy carbohydrates
Starchy carbohydrates should make up just over one third of the food you eat. They include potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and cereals. Choose wholegrain varieties (or eat potatoes with their skins on) when you can: they contain more fibre, and can help you feel full for longer.
Most of us should eat more starchy foods: try to include at least one starchy food with each main meal. Some people think starchy foods are fattening, but gram for gram the carbohydrate they contain provides fewer than half the calories of fat.
Keep an eye on the fats you add when you're cooking or serving these types of foods because that's what increases the calorie content, for example oil on chips, butter on bread and creamy sauces on pasta.
Eat lots of fruit and veg
It's recommended that we eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and veg every day. It's easier than it sounds. Why not chop a banana over your breakfast cereal, or swap your usual mid-morning snack for a piece of fresh fruit?
Unsweetened 100% fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies can only ever count as a maximum of one portion of your 5 A DAY. For example, if you have two glasses of fruit juice and a smoothie in one day, that still only counts as one portion.
Eat more fish – including a portion of oily fish
Fish is a good source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. Aim to eat at least two portions of fish a week, including at least one portion of oily fish. Oily fish contains omega-3 fats, which may help to prevent heart disease.
Cut down on saturated fat and sugar
We all need some fat in our diet, but it's important to pay attention to the amount and type of fat we're eating. There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.
The average man should have no more than 30g saturated fat a day. The average woman should have no more than 20g saturated fat a day, and children should have less than adults.
Eat less salt – no more than 6g a day for adults
Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke. Even if you don’t add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much.
About three-quarters of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, such as breakfast cereals, soups, breads and sauces.
Get active and be a healthy weight
Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy weight, which is an important part of overall good health. Being overweight or obese can lead to health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and stroke. Being underweight could also affect your health.
Don't get thirsty
We need to drink plenty of fluids to stop us getting dehydrated – the government recommends 6-8 glasses every day.
This is in addition to the fluid we get from the food we eat. All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water and lower-fat milk are healthier choices. Try to avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks that are high in added sugars and calories, and are also bad for teeth.
Don't skip breakfast
Some people skip breakfast because they think it will help them lose weight. In fact, research shows that people who regularly eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight.
Breakfast has also been shown to have positive effects on children’s mental performance and increase their concentration throughout the morning.
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