A Healthy Diet Can Improve Your Health and Well-Being

A healthy diet includes a variety of foods that provide your body with essential nutrients. A healthy diet is based on mostly nutrient-dense foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats and oily fish) and limits “junk food” and sugar-sweetened beverages.

The healthy eating pattern includes a balanced intake of carbohydrates, proteins and fats as well as enough fibre to maintain bowel health. It also includes regular meals and snacks that are low in salt, sugar and saturated fats.

Eating the recommended number of portions of a wide variety of fruit and vegetables can help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers. A portion is equal to 1 apple, banana or pear; 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables; or a cup of salad.

It is also a good idea to include a source of protein at each meal, as this contributes to feelings of fullness and helps build muscle. Choose lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry and fish, and avoid processed meats like bacon, ham and sausages. Try to include a couple of servings of fish a week, as this is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Limiting saturated and trans fats and shifting toward the consumption of unsaturated fats can also improve your overall health. Try cooking with vegetable, olive or canola oils, and use spreads and salad dressings made with oils rather than solid fats.

It’s also important to reduce your daily intake of salt and sodium (which is often added to processed foods) to help maintain a healthy blood pressure level. Choose reduced-sodium or no-salt-added canned or frozen foods, and use a salt substitute when cooking.

Make sure to drink plenty of water, milk or unsweetened soya drinks to keep your body hydrated. Aim for at least six to eight glasses of fluid each day.

If you’re not used to planning and preparing your meals, start by making just a few changes at a time. It’s not realistic to expect yourself to change everything at once, and doing too much too soon can be overwhelming. Start by choosing one small change – it could be something as simple as adding a side of vegetables to your dinner, or using brown rice instead of white pasta.

The Eatwell guide, which is available here, is a helpful tool to help you plan healthy meals and snacks. It’s easy to download, and it’s free. It shows you what types of food you should eat in each meal to get the right amount of nutrients for your age and gender. It also gives you tips on how to prepare and store food, to help you manage your budget and eat healthily on a tight schedule. It’s a great resource for people of all ages and abilities.