What makes a balanced diet?

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Healthy eating explained

A well-balanced diet plays an important role in your overall health, ensuring you feel your best.

That doesn’t mean strict rules. It’s just about improving your wellbeing, boosting your energy levels, improving your health and lifting your spirits.

It means having the right amount of the right foods to be a healthy weight. Perfection isn’t required at every meal, but trying to have a balanced diet through the week does bring benefits.

The NHS Eatwell Guide sets out the main food groups and recommended proportions.

The core principles are:

  • Have five servings of fruit and veg each day

These can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried, or juiced — providing essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre.

  • Build your meals around starchy carbohydrates like potatoes, bread, rice, and pasta

These supply ample energy. Choose wholewheat pasta or brown rice for added fibre and leave the potato skins on for extra nutrients.

  • Include a variety of protein sources such as beans, fish, eggs, and lean meats

If you choose meat, have lean cuts and less processed meats like sausages, ham, and bacon. Aim to have fish twice a week, with one being an oily fish like mackerel or salmon.

  • Include dairy or dairy alternatives

Milk, cheese, and yogurt provide protein and are key for healthy bones due to their calcium content.

  • Have unsaturated oils and spreads in moderation

Vegetable, rapeseed, olive, and sunflower oils are healthier choices compared to other oils. Remember, all fats are calorie-dense, so use them sparingly.

  • Limit foods high in fat, sugar, and salt

Treats like chocolate, cakes, biscuits, sugary beverages, butter, and ice cream are not essential in our diets and are best as treats now and then.

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluid

The UK government recommends six to eight cups or glasses daily to support hydration and overall health. Water, lower-fat milks, low-sugar soft drinks, tea and coffee all count.

 

Please note: The Eatwell Guide is for anyone over the age of two. You should talk to your doctor or dietitian if you have specific dietary needs.

25 October, 2023

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