What is healthy eating?

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Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of overall health — and can help you to feel at your best.

A healthy diet is not about strict limits or getting super-thin. It’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health and boosting your mood.

It means eating the right amounts of the right foods, to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

The NHS Eatwell Guide explains the basic food groups — and suggests how much we should eat from each.

There’s no need to get it exactly right at every meal, but trying to get a good balance over the week can pay dividends.

The basic principles of the Eatwell Guide are:

Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each day

This can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced. Fruit and veg are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Base meals on starchy carbohydrates like potatoes, bread, rice and pasta

These are a great source of energy. Choose wholewheat pasta or brown rice to get more fibre – and leave the skins on spuds.

Eat some beans, fish, eggs, meat and other protein foods

If eating meat, choose lean cuts and try to avoid processed meats like sausages, ham and bacon. Aim for two portions of fish per week, and make one oily (e.g. mackerel or salmon).

Have some dairy or dairy-substitute foods

Milk, cheese, and yoghurt are all sources of protein and are also an important source of calcium, to keep our bones healthy.

Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and use in moderation

Vegetable, rapeseed, olive and sunflower oils are more healthy than other fats, but all fats are high-calorie and should be used sparingly.

Don’t have too many foods high in fat, sugar and salt

Foods like chocolate, cakes, biscuits, sugary soft drinks, butter and ice cream aren’t really needed in our diets at all, so save them for a special treat.

Drink plenty of fluids

The UK government recommends six-to-eight cups or glasses each day to stay hydrated and healthy. Water, lower-fat milks, lower-sugar soft drinks, tea and coffee all count.

Note: The Eatwell Guide applies to anyone over the age of two, but those with special dietary requirements may need to check how to adapt it to their individual needs with a registered dietitian.

Key sources and further reading

Gov UK: The Eatwell Guide

15 March, 2023