A healthy diet is an eating pattern that includes a variety of foods and drinks, low levels of saturated fat and added sugars, and the right number of calories. It includes whole foods, such as those that have been unprocessed or refined, like fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans. It also includes lean meats, fish, eggs and plant-based proteins, as well as healthy fats, such as those found in olive and coconut oils, as well as foods that contain nutrients, such as leafy greens and colourful fruits and vegetables.
Eating a healthy diet means avoiding food and drink that are high in saturated fat, added salt and sugars, as well as choosing higher fibre foods. It’s important to choose lower fat options when it comes to milk and yoghurt, and to opt for plain or ‘no added sugar’ varieties of packaged foods. The NHS recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of daily calories. This can be achieved by trimming fat from meat, choosing ‘lower-fat’ dairy foods and using vegetable oils or low-fat spreads instead of butter, lard and margarine.
Many people think that a healthy diet is bland and boring, but there are ways to make meals more interesting. Adding herbs, spices and other flavourings to dishes can help to improve their taste without adding extra calories. It’s also important to learn how to cook and prepare food at home. This will help you avoid consuming excess salt and sugars, and can be much cheaper than buying ready-made meals and snacks.
It’s also important to eat smaller portions, particularly when eating out. Many restaurant servings are large and can contribute to overeating. When dining out, try to share a meal or order a starter and main dish. When cooking at home, use smaller plates and bowls to help manage portion sizes.
Sodium intake is also important to consider when trying to eat healthier, as excessive consumption can be linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. Salt is added to many processed and prepackaged foods, so it’s a good idea to read labels to find products with less salt. Try to reduce your salt intake by reducing how often you eat packaged foods, cooking at home from scratch and using seasonings and herbs to add flavour to meals.
Incorporating a range of vegetables and fruits into your meals can also add extra vitamins and minerals. It’s recommended that you eat at least five servings of vegetables and fruit each day, which can be eaten both cooked and raw. Having fresh fruit and vegetables in the house can help to make it easier to snack healthily, so stock up on apples, oranges, bananas and other favourites. Try to serve them with a protein source, such as lean meat, fish or soya, to keep you fuller for longer.