Base your meals on starchy carbohydrates
Starchy carbohydrates should make up just over a third of your diet. These include potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, and cereals.
Choose whole grains (or eat peeled potatoes) if you can: they contain more fiber and can help you feel full longer.
Most of us should eat more starchy foods: try to add at least one starchy food to each main meal. Some people think that starchy foods fatten you up, but gram for gram, the carbohydrate they contain provides less than half the calories of fat.
Watch out for the fats that you add when cooking or serving these types of foods, as these are what add to the calorie content, for example oil on chips, butter on bread, and creamy sauces on pasta.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
It is recommended that we eat at least five servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. It’s easier than it sounds.
Why not chop a banana over your breakfast cereal or swap your usual snack for a piece of fresh fruit?
Unsweetened 100% fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies can only count as a maximum of one serving of your 5 A DAY. For example, if you have two glasses of fruit juice and a smoothie in one day, it still only counts as one serving.
Eat more fish – including a serving of oily fish
Fish is a good source of protein and is rich in vitamins and minerals. Aim to eat at least two servings of fish a week, including at least one serving of oily fish. Oily fish contain omega-3 fats, which can help prevent heart disease.
Oily fish included:
- Salmon colored
- Fresh tuna
Non-oily fish are included:
- Charcoal burner
- Canned tuna
- Ice skate
If you eat a lot of fish on a regular basis, try to make as many choices as possible.
You can choose from fresh, frozen, and canned fish, but keep in mind that canned and smoked fish can be high in salt content.
Reduction of saturated fat and sugar
Saturated fat in our diet
We all need some fat in our diets, but it is important to pay attention to the amount and type of fat we eat. There are two main types of fats: saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of heart disease.
The average man shouldn’t have more than 30 grams of saturated fat per day. The average woman shouldn’t have more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day, and children should have less than adults.
Saturated fat is found in many foods, such as:
- Hard cheese
- hot dog
Try to reduce your saturated fat intake and choose foods that contain unsaturated fats, such as vegetable oils, oily fish, and avocados, instead.
For a healthier choice, use just a small amount of vegetable oil or low-fat spread instead of butter, lard or ghee. When eating meat, choose lean meat and cut off any visible fat.
Sugar in our diet
Regular consumption of foods and beverages that are high in sugar increases the risk of obesity and tooth decay.
Sugary foods and drinks, including alcoholic beverages, are often high in energy (measured in kilojoules, or calories) and, if eaten too often, can contribute to weight gain. They can also cause tooth decay, especially if eaten between meals.
Many packaged foods and beverages contain surprisingly high amounts of free sugar. Free sugar is any sugar that is added to food or beverages, or found naturally in honey, syrups, and unsweetened fruit juices.
- Sugary sodas
- Alcoholic drinks
- Sugary breakfast cereals
- Bakery products
These foods have added sugar: this is the kind of sugar we should cut down, not sugar found in things like fruits and milk.
Food labels can help: use them to check how much sugar foods contain. More than 22.5 g total sugar per 100 g means the food is high in sugar, while 5 g total sugar or less per 100 g means the food is low in sugar.
Eat less salt – no more than 6g per day for adults
Too much salt can raise blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or a stroke.
Even if you don’t add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much. About three-quarters of the salt we eat is already in the foods we buy, such as breakfast cereals, soups, breads, and sauces.
Use food labels that will help you cut costs. More than 1.5 g of salt per 100 g means a high salt content. Adults and children aged 11 and over should not eat more than 6 g of salt (about one teaspoon) per day. Younger children should have even less.
Get active and have a healthy weight
Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy weight, which is an important part of overall health.
Being overweight or obese can lead to health problems such as type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Being underweight can also affect your health.
Most adults need to lose weight and need to eat fewer calories to do so. When trying to lose weight, your aim is to eat less and be more active. A healthy, balanced diet helps: the aim is to reduce the proportion of saturated fat and sugar and to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.
Don’t forget that alcohol is also high in calories so you can control your weight.
Physical activity can help you maintain weight loss or achieve a healthy weight. Being active doesn’t have to mean hours in the gym: you can find ways to incorporate more activity into your daily life. For example, try getting off the bus one stop earlier on the way home from work and walking.
Physical activity can help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. For more ideas, see Get Active.
After you’ve got active, remember not to reward yourself with an energetic treat. If you feel hungry after the activity, choose foods or drinks that are lower in calories but still filling.
If you are underweight, check out our page on underweight adults. If you are concerned about your weight, seek advice from your family doctor or nutritionist.
Don’t get thirsty
We need to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration – the government recommends 6-8 glasses a day.
This is in addition to the fluids we get from the food we eat. All soft drinks count, but water and low-fat milk are healthier.
Try to avoid sugary soft drinks and beverages that are high in sugar and calories and also bad for your teeth.
Unsweetened fruit juices and smoothies are also rich in free sugar. Your total amount of drinks from fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies should not be more than 150 ml per day – this is a small glass.
For example, if you have 150 ml of orange juice and 150 ml of smoothie in one day, you have exceeded the recommendation by 150 ml.
When the weather is warm or when we are active, we need more fluids.
Don’t skip breakfast
Some people skip breakfast because they think it will help them lose weight. In fact, research shows that people who eat breakfast regularly are less likely to be overweight.
Breakfast also has a positive effect on the children’s mental performance and increases their ability to concentrate during the morning.
A healthy breakfast is an important part of a balanced diet and provides some of the vitamins and minerals we need for good health.