What we eat ("our diet") always seems to be headline news - it can seem hard to keep up with all the guidelines, advice and warnings. But Healthy Eating isn't complicated - with some simple tips we can all make healthy changes and get a good balance every day.
How does it work?
The Eatwell Guide shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. You don't need to achieve this balance with every meal but try to get the balance right over a day or even a week.
It's important to get some fat in your diet, but foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar have been placed outside of the circular image as they are not necessary as part of a healthy balanced diet and most of us need to cut down on these.
Unsaturated fats from plant sources, for example vegetable oil or olive oil, are healthier types of fat. But all types of fat are high in energy (calories) and so should only be eaten in small amounts.
On average, women should have around 2,000 calories a day (8,400 kilojoules) and men should have around 2,500 calories a day (10,500 kilojoules). Most adults are consuming more calories than they need.
Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day
Most of us still aren't eating enough fruit and vegetables. They should make up over a third of the food we eat each day. Choose from fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced. Remember that fruit juice and/or smoothies should be limited to no more than a combined total of 150ml per day.
Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates. Choose wholegrain where possible
Starchy food should make up just over a third of the food we eat. Choose higher-fibre, wholegrain varieties, such as wholewheat pasta and brown rice, or simply leave skins on potatoes. There are also higher-fibre versions of white bread and pasta.
Starchy foods are a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients in our diet.
Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks and yoghurts). Choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options
Milk, cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais are good sources of protein and some vitamins, and they're also an important source of calcium, which helps to keep our bones strong. Try to go for lower-fat and lower-sugar products where possible, like 1% fat milk, reduced-fat cheese or plain low-fat yoghurt.
Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein. Aim for at least two portions of fish every week – one of which should be oily, such as salmon or mackerel
These foods are good sources of protein, vitamins and minerals. Pulses such as beans, peas and lentils are good alternatives to meat because they're lower in fat and higher in fibre and protein, too. Choose lean cuts of meat and mince and eat less red and processed meat like bacon, ham and sausages.
Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts
Unsaturated fats are healthier fats and include vegetable, rapeseed, olive and sunflower oils. Remember all types of fat are high in energy and should be eaten sparingly.
Eat foods high in fat, salt and sugar less often and in small amounts
These foods include chocolate, cakes, biscuits, sugary soft drinks, butter, ghee and ice cream. They're not needed in the diet and so should be eaten less often and in smaller amounts.
Drink plenty of fluids – the government recommends 6-8 cups/glasses a day
Water, lower-fat milks and lower-sugar or sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee all count. Fruit juice and smoothies also count towards your fluid consumption but they contain free sugars that can damage teeth, so limit these drinks to a combined total of 150ml per day.
Does the Eatwell Guide apply to everyone?
The Eatwell Guide applies to most of us – whether we're a healthy weight or overweight, whether we eat meat or are vegetarian, and no matter what our ethnic origin.
Anyone with special dietary requirements or medical needs might want to check with a registered dietitian or nutritionist on how to adapt the Eatwell Guide to meet their individual needs.
Children under the age of two
The Eatwell Guide doesn't apply to children under the age of two, because they have different nutritional needs. Between the ages of two and five, children should gradually move to eating the same foods as the rest of the family, in the proportions shown in the Eatwell Guide.
Download the Eatwell Guide booklet
For more information, including details of which foods are included in the food groups, download Public Health England's booklet about the Eatwell Guide from GOV.UK. Got a question about the Eatwell Guide? Email the Eatwell Guide team at Public Health England: email@example.com.
Healthy Eating Tips
Healthy eating doesn't have to be difficult - it usually just means making some small changes. Making changes gradually means you are more likely to stick with them - try changing one thing at a time. Here are some simple tips to help you keep on track with healthy eating:
- Base your meals on starchy foods – these are foods that will fill you up. Choose whole grain varieties when you can.
- Eat lots of fruit and vegetables – aim to have at least 5 portions a day of different fruit and vegetables. One portion is one handful.
- Eat more fish - Try to have fish 2 times a week with one being an oily fish such as salmon.
- Cut down on unhealthy fats – these are called saturated fat. These are found in hard cheese, cakes, biscuits, cream, butter, lard and pies.
- Cut down on sugar – most people can cut down by having less fizzy drinks, alcoholic drinks, sugary breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits and sweets.
- Eat less salt – try to not add salt to your food while cooking or at the table. Many foods which are ready made already have salt added, try to make your own to avoid hidden salt.
- Be active – doing a little more exercise such as walking can help maintain your weight and also boost your mental health - for more information click here.
- Keep hydrated – try to drink 2 litres of fluid throughout the day.
- Don’t skip breakfast – try to have a healthy breakfast within 2 hours of waking up.
For more ideas and healthy recipes visit Eat Better, Feel Better.
Healthy Eating 101
Dr. Mike Evans Associate Professor of Family Medicine has produced a short film may give you a different way to look at healthy eating.
Maintaining a healthy weight is esstential for our physical health as well as our self esteem. Eating less than our body needs can lead to becoming underweight, which can cause health problems. Eating more than our body needs can lead to becoming overweight or obese, which also causes health problems.
To find out if you are of a healthy weight you can check using the BMI calculator. It is best to stay in a healthy weight range to protect yourself from a number of health problems, and to be able to cope with day to day tasks.
If your BMI is over 25 and you would like help to change you can take part in the Counterweight Programme.
The aims of Counterweight are:
• To help change your eating habits and physical activity levels in the long term.
• To help you achieve a medically worthwhile weight loss of between 5-10% of your starting weight.
• To help you maintain your weight loss.
• To improve your health generally
You can join the Counterweight Programme by contacting your local Health Centre or the Health Improvement Department.
What happens at a Counterweight Appointment?
- You will have a trained Counterweight Advisor
- You will meet with them for 6 sessions every 2 weeks.
- At each session you will get advice and support to change your eating habits and physical activity level.
- You have the option to have your weight recorded at each appointment and your waist measured at the start and end of the programme.
- You will be given a Counterweight Folder to keep all the information given and track your progress.
Counterweight sessions can be delivered in both one-to-one or group settings.
The SCOTT/ SCOTT lite programme is a family centred weight Management programme to help promote childhood healthy weight. It consists of 9 family based one-to-one sessions with a health professional over 6 months for children and adolescents aged 2-15 years. The programme does not focus on dieting but instead helps the whole family establish long-term lifestyle changes to diet and physical activity which promote healthier weight.