A healthy diet helps to prevent, or reduce the severity of, diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A healthy diet may also help to reduce the risk of developing some cancers. Also, a main way of combating obesity and overweight is to eat a healthy diet. This leaflet gives the principles of a healthy diet.
Eat plenty of starchy foods (complex carbohydrates)
Starchy foods such as bread, cereals, potatoes, rice, and pasta, together with fruit and vegetables, should provide the bulk of most meals. Some people wrongly think that starchy foods are 'fattening'. In fact, they contain about half the calories than the same weight of fat. (However, it is easy to add fat to some starchy foods. For example, by adding butter to jacket potatoes or bread, or by adding oil to potatoes to make chips, etc.)
Also, starchy foods often contain a lot of fibre (roughage). When you eat starchy foods, you get a feeling of fullness (satiety) which helps to control appetite. Tips to increase starchy foods include:
For most meals, include generous portions of rice, pasta, baked potatoes, or bread.
For more fibre, choose wholemeal bread. When baking, use at least 1/3 wholemeal flour.
If you have cereals for breakfast, choose porridge, high fibre cereals, or wholemeal cereals (without sugar coating).
Have tea breads, and plain or fruit scones, instead of sugary cakes and biscuits.
Step 1: Eat Plenty of Fruit and Vegetables
Is is recommended that we eat at least five portions, and ideally 7-9 portions, of a variety of fruit or vegetables each day. If you eat a lot of 'fruit and veg', then your chance of developing heart disease, a stroke, or bowel cancer are reduced. In addition, 'fruit and veg':
contain lots of fibre which help to keep your bowels healthy. Problems such as constipation and diverticular disease are less likely to develop.
contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, which are needed to keep you healthy.
are naturally low in fat.
are filling but are low in calories.
One portion of fruit or vegetables is roughly equivalent to one of the following.
One large fruit such as an apple, pear, banana, orange, or a large slice of melon or pineapple.
Two smaller fruits such as plums, kiwis, satsumas, clementines, etc.
One cup of small fruits such as grapes, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, etc.
Two large tablespoons of fruit salad, stewed or canned fruit in natural juices.
One tablespoon of dried fruit.
One glass of fresh fruit juice (150ml).
A normal portion of any vegetable (about two tablespoons).
One dessert bowl of salad.
Some tips on how to increase fruit and vegetables in your diet include:
Try some different types which you have not tried before. The variety of tastes and textures may be surprising. Juices, frozen, canned, and dried varieties all count.
Try adding chopped bananas, apples, or other fruits to breakfast cereals.
Aim to include at least two different vegetables with most main meals. Do not over-boil vegetables. Steaming, stir-frying, or lightly boiling are best to retain the nutrients.
Always offer fruit or fruit juice to accompany meals.
Try new recipes which include fruit. For example, some curries or stews include fruit such as dried apricots. Have fruit based puddings. Fruit with yoghurt is a common favourite.
How about cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, dried apricots, or other fruits as part of packed lunches? A banana sandwich is another idea for lunch.
Fruit is great for snacks. Encourage children to snack with fruit rather than with sweets.
Eat plenty of fibre (roughage)
Fibre is the part of food that is not digested. It is filling, but has few calories. It helps the bowels to move regularly, which reduces constipation and other bowel problems. Fibre may also help to lower your cholesterol level. Starchy foods, and fruit and vegetables contain the most fibre. So the tips above on starchy foods and fruit and vegetables will also increase fibre. Have plenty to drink when you eat a high fibre diet (at least 6-8 cups of fluid a day).