Top tips for healthy eating

These practical tips from the experts at the NHS cover the basics of healthy eating and can help you make wise choices…

Eat lots of fruit and veg

It’s recommended that you eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and veg every day. They can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced. 

Getting your ‘5-A-Day’ is 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? 

A portion of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables is 80g. A portion of dried fruit (which should be kept to mealtimes) is 30g. 

A 150ml glass of fruit juice, vegetable juice or smoothie also counts as one portion. But it’s best to limit the amount you have to one glass a day.

Base your meals on higher fibre starchy carbohydrates

Starchy carbohydrates should make up just over a third of the food you eat. They include potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and cereals.

Choose higher fibre or wholegrain varieties, such as wholewheat pasta, brown rice or potatoes with their skins on. These contain more fibre than white or refined starchy carbohydrates and can help you feel full for longer.

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.

Cut down on saturated fat and sugar

You need some fat in your diet, but it’s important to pay attention to the amount and type of fat you’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. Saturated fat is found in many foods, such as fatty cuts of meat, sausages, butter, hard cheese, cream and cakes.

Choose foods that contain unsaturated fats instead, such as vegetable oils and spreads, oily fish and avocados.

The breakfast boost

Some people skip breakfast because they think it will help them lose weight. But a healthy breakfast high in fibre and low in fat, sugar and salt can form part of a balanced diet, and can help you get the nutrients you need for good health.

A wholegrain lower sugar cereal with semi-skimmed milk and fruit on top is a tasty and healthier breakfast.

Don’t get thirsty

You need to drink plenty of fluids to stop yourself getting dehydrated. The government recommends drinking six to eight glasses every day. This is in addition to the fluid you get from the food you eat. 

All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water, lower fat milk and lower sugar drinks, including tea and coffee, are healthier choices. 

Try to avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks, as they’re high in calories. They’re also bad for your teeth. Even unsweetened fruit juice and smoothies are high in free sugar.

Your combined total of drinks from fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies should not be more than 150ml a day, which is a small glass.

Eat less salt

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 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 breakfast cereals, soups, breads and sauces. Use food labels to help you cut down. More than 1.5g of salt per 100g means the food is high in salt.

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 are high in omega-3 fats, which may help prevent heart disease. These include salmon, trout, herring, sardines pilchards and mackerel.

Non-oily fish include haddock, plaice, coley, cod, tuna, skate and hake.

You can choose from fresh, frozen and canned, but remember that canned and smoked fish can be high in salt.

Get active

As well as eating healthily, regular exercise may help reduce your risk of getting serious health conditions. It’s also important for your overall health and wellbeing. Find more information on healthy eating at: nhs.uk/live-well

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