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8 Tips for a Healthy Diet

These 8 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 for your activity so that you balance the energy you take in with the energy you use. If you eat or drink more than your body needs, you'll gain weight because the energy you don't use will be stored as fat. If you eat and drink too little, you lose weight. 

    You should also eat a wide variety of foods to make sure you're eating a balanced diet and your body is getting all the nutrients it needs. It's recommended that men eat about 2,500 calories per day (10,500 kilojoules). Women should eat about 2,000 calories per day (8,400 kilojoules). Most adults in the United Kingdom consume more calories than they need and should eat fewer calories.

1. Base your meals on higher-fibre, starchy carbohydrates

Starchy carbohydrates should make up a little more than one- third of your meals. These include potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, and grain products. Choose higher-fibre or whole-grain varieties, such as whole-grain pasta, brown rice, or potatoes with skins. They contain more fibre than white or refined starchy carbohydrates and can help keep you full longer. 

    Try to eat at least one starchy food with each main meal. Some people think starchy foods are fattening, but gram for gram, the carbohydrates they contain provide less than half the calories of fat. Watch the fats you add when cooking or serving these foods, because they increase the calorie content – for example, oil on chips, butter on bread, and creamy sauces on pasta.

2. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables


It is recommended to eat at least 5 servings of different fruits and vegetables every day. They can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or prepared as juice. Achieving the 5 servings per day is easier than it sounds. Why not slice a banana on top of your breakfast cereal or swap out your usual mid-morning snack for a piece of fresh fruit? One serving of fresh, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables equals 80 gram. A serving of dried fruit (which should only be eaten at mealtimes) contains 30 g. A 150 ml glass of fruit juice, vegetable juice or smoothie is also considered a serving, but you should not consume more than one glass per day, as these drinks contain sugar and can damage your teeth.

3. Eat more fish, including a portion of oily fish


Fish is a good source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. Eat at least 2 servings of fish per week, including at least 1 serving of oily fish. Oily fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent heart disease.

Oily fish include:

salmon, trout, herring, sardines, pilchards, mackerel

Non-fatty fish include:

haddock plaice saithe cod tuna skate hake

You can choose from fresh, frozen and canned fish, but remember that canned and smoked fish can have a high salt content. Most people should eat more fish, but there are recommended limits for some types of fish.

4. Reduce saturated fats and sugars

Saturated fats

You need some fat in your diet, but it's important to watch the amount and type of fat you consume. There are 2 main types of fat: saturated fat and unsaturated fat. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, which increases your risk for heart disease. On average, men should eat no more than 30 gram of saturated fat per day. Women shouldn't consume more than 20 g of saturated fat per day on average. Children under 11 years of age should consume less saturated fat than adults, but a low-fat diet isn't appropriate for children under 5 years of age.

Saturated fats are found in many foods, such as:

fatty cuts of meat sausages butter hard cheese cream cakes cookies lard cakes

Try to eat less saturated fats and instead choose foods that contain unsaturated fats, such as vegetable oils and spreads, fatty fish, and avocados. Instead of butter, lard or ghee, use a small amount of vegetable or olive oil or reduced-fat spread for a healthier alternative. If you eat meat, choose lean cuts and trim visible fat. All types of fat contain a lot of energy and should therefore only be consumed in small quantities.


Regular consumption of sugary foods and beverages increases the risk of obesity and tooth decay. Sugary foods and beverages are often high in energy (measured in kilojoules or calories) and, if consumed too often, can contribute to weight gain. They can also cause tooth decay, especially if eaten between meals. Free sugars are any sugars added to foods or beverages, or naturally present in honey, syrups, and unsweetened fruit juices and smoothies. You should limit these types of sugars rather than those found in fruit and milk. Many packaged foods and beverages contain a surprising amount of free sugar.

Free sugar is found in many foods, such as:

sugary carbonated drinks sugary breakfast cereals cakes cookies pastries and puddings candy and chocolate alcoholic beverages

Food labels can help. Use them to check how much sugar foods contain. More than 22.5 g of total sugar per 100 g means the food contains a lot of sugar, while 5 g of total sugar or less per 100 g means the food contains little sugar.

5. Eat less salt: no more than 6 g per day for adults

Eating too much salt can increase blood pressure. People with high blood pressure have a higher risk of heart disease or stroke. Even if you do not add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much. About three-quarters of the salt you eat is already in the food when you buy it, such as in breakfast cereals, soups, breads, and sauces. Use food labelling to reduce salt content. More than 1.5 g of salt per 100 g means the food is high in salt. Adults and children 11 years and older should eat no more than 6 g of salt (about one teaspoon) per day. Younger children should consume even less.

6. Get active and maintain a healthy weight

In addition to a healthy diet, regular exercise can help reduce your risk for serious illness. It's also important for your overall health and well-being. Being overweight or obese can lead to diseases such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and stroke. Being underweight can also affect your health. Most adults need to lose weight by eating fewer calories. If you're trying to lose weight, you should eat less and exercise more. 

    A healthy, balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight. You can use the Healthy Weight BMI Calculator to check if you're at a healthy weight. Lose weight with the NHS Weight Loss Plan, a 12-week guide to losing weight that includes advice on eating healthier and exercising. If you're underweight, see Underweight adults. If you're worried about your weight, ask your GP or a dietitian for advice.

7. Do not become thirsty


You need to consume plenty of fluids so you don't become dehydrated. The government recommends drinking 6 to 8 glasses every day. This is in addition to the fluids you take in through food. All soft drinks count, but water, low-fat milk, and low-sugar drinks, including tea and coffee, are healthier choices. Avoid sugary soft drinks and carbonated beverages because they contain a lot of calories. Plus, they're bad for your teeth. 

    Even unsweetened fruit juices and smoothies contain a lot of free sugar. The total amount of fruit juices, vegetable juices and smoothies you drink should not exceed 150 ml per day, which is equivalent to a small glass. Remember to drink more fluids in hot weather or when exercising.

8. Do not skip breakfast


Some people skip breakfast because they think it will help them lose weight. But a healthy breakfast with lots of fibre and low fat, sugar and salt can be part of a balanced diet and help you get the nutrients you need for good health. A low-sugar, whole-grain cereal with semi-skim milk and sliced fruit is a tasty and healthier breakfast.

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