The 8 tips to help achieve a healthy balanced diet:
Base your meals on starchy foods
Eat lots of fruit and veg
Eat more fish – including a portion of oily fish a week
Cut down on saturated fat and sugar
Try to eat less salt – no more than 6g a day for adults
Get active and try to be a healthy weight
Drink plenty of water
Don’t skip breakfast
A healthy balanced diet contains a variety of types of food. It is based on starchy foods such as potatoes, pasta, bread and rice (preferably wholegrain cereals) and contain at least five portions of fruit, vegetables; some protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs and lentils; and some dairy foods.
Some consumers choose to cook most of their meals for themselves or their family while others rely more on packaged convenience foods – or a mixture of both. All foods can have a role in a healthy balanced diet. The key is to choose a variety of foods to suit your individual needs and preferences and the 8 tips can help you make healthier choices.
1. Base your meals on starchy foods
Starchy foods such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes are a really important part of a healthy diet. Try to choose some wholegrain varieties of these foods.
Starchy foods should make up about a third of the food we eat. They are a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients in our diet. As well as starch, these foods contain fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins.
Most of us should eat more starchy foods - try to include at least one starchy food with each of your main meals. So you could start the day with a wholegrain breakfast cereal, have a sandwich for lunch, and potatoes, pasta or rice with your evening meal.
Some people think starchy foods are fattening, but gram for gram they contain less than half the calories of fat. You just need to watch the fats you add when cooking and serving these foods as this is what increases the calorie content.
2. Eat lots of fruit and veg
Most people know we should be eating more fruit and veg, but most of us still aren’t eating enough. Try to eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and veg every day. It might be easier than you think. The good news is that a glass of orange juice, an apple, a small can of tomatoes or baked beans each count as one portion. Choose from fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced, but remember potatoes count as a starchy food not as portions of fruit and veg.
3. Eat more fish – including one portion of oily fish a week
Aim for at least two portions of fish a week, including a portion of oily fish. It’s an excellent source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. You can choose from fresh, frozen or canned - but remember that canned and smoked fish can be high in salt, so check the label.
Some fish are called oily fish because they are rich in certain types of fats, called omega 3 fatty acids, which can help keep our hearts healthy. Examples of oily fish are salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, fresh tuna and sardines.
4. Cut down on saturated fat and sugar
To stay healthy we all need some fat in our diets. What is important is the kind of fats we are eating. There are two main types of fat:
Saturated fat - having too much can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases the chance of developing heart disease
Unsaturated fat - having unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat lowers blood cholesterol.
Try to cut down on food that is high in saturated fat and include foods that are rich in unsaturated fat instead, such as vegetable oils (including sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil), oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds. Foods that are high in saturated fat include fatty meats, pies, cakes and biscuits, and cream. Try to eat these sorts of foods less often or in small amounts.
Look at the label to see how much fat and saturated fat a food contains.
As part of a balanced diet it is fine to eat some sugar and sugary foods but in general we are eating too many of these foods. So try to eat fewer sugar containing foods, such as sweets, cakes and biscuits; and drinking fewer sugary soft and fizzy drinks – or eat and drink them in smaller amounts.
5. Try to eat less salt - no more than 6g a day
Lots of people think they don’t eat much salt, especially if they don’t add it to their food.
Three-quarters (75%) of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, such as soups, sandwiches,