A healthy diet is one that provides the body with the nutrients it needs to grow and function properly. It includes a variety of foods from each food group and limits unhealthy fats and sugars. Eating a healthy diet can help prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and some cancers.
Include vegetables at every meal. Eat a range of colours and choose vegetables with the skins on when possible (for example, potatoes with their skins on). Try new vegetables every week – for example, swiss chard, purple kale or fennel.
Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. These can be fresh, frozen, canned or dried. Try to have a portion of vegetables and a serving of fruit with each main meal, and add a tablespoon of sliced banana or berries to your morning cereal as another way to get a serving each day.
Choose low-fat dairy: skim or 1% milk and lower-fat cheeses, and choose yoghurt with less sugar. If you eat plant-based dairy alternatives, make sure they are fortified with calcium and other vitamins and minerals.
Use unsalted or reduced-sodium margarines and spreads, or cook with olive oil. Avoid processed foods, such as cakes, cookies, pies and frozen burgers, which can contain high levels of sodium (salt) and added sugars.
Boost your protein intake with beans and peas, nuts, seeds, fish and poultry. Choose lean meats and fish, especially those that are low in saturated fat.
Incorporate plant-based healthy proteins such as tofu, quinoa and soya products in your meals. Choose whole grains: bread and crackers made with 100% whole grain flour, brown rice, oats, barley and quinoa.
Choose foods that are naturally sweet: carrots, beets, yams, squash and sweet potato. Try adding these to soups, stews and pasta sauces.
Satisfy your sweet tooth: Eat a small amount of naturally-sweetened desserts and ice cream, or use fruit to make healthier frozen treats. If you have to add sugar to a recipe, try using just half the recommended amount.
Include healthy fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as those in olive oil, avocados and nuts (like almonds and hazelnuts), as well as plant-based oils (such as sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flaxseed). Avoid trans fats – found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, commercially prepared cookies, snack foods, fried foods and candies.
Plan ahead and cook at home as often as you can. Cooking from scratch allows you to control the ingredients and amounts of fat, salt and sugar.
Give kids healthy snacks: cut up fruits and vegetables, whole grain mini-bagels and crackers, yogurt and nut butters. Keep water and low-fat or fat-free dairy milk or fortified soya alternatives ready to go in the fridge. Encourage family meals at the table and turn off the TV to make eating together a priority. When eating at restaurants, order only those foods that are lower in fat and sodium. If you have to eat on the go, take your own healthy food with you in a container: e.g., a pack of whole-wheat crackers, yogurt and a handful of nuts.