How to Eat a Healthy Diet

The food you eat provides the energy and nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. A healthy diet aims to provide a balanced combination of foods from the 5 major food groups: fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and fat-free or low-fat dairy.

Eating a wide variety of healthy foods can give you important vitamins, minerals and fibre, and can help protect against diseases such as heart disease, cancer and obesity.

It’s best to eat foods that are unprocessed or close to their natural state (fresh, frozen or canned) when possible. This will help to reduce your intake of added sugars, salt and saturated fat, as well as kilojoules.

Eat more foods from the vegetable and fruit group, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, berries, tomatoes and avocado. It is also a good idea to eat more wholegrains, such as brown rice, barley and quinoa.

Limit fried and processed foods, such as sausages and hot dogs, instant oatmeal and margarine-based pastries. Try to choose seafood, poultry, eggs and beans for your proteins. Try to avoid red meat, as it is high in saturated fat and cholesterol and contains too many kilojoules.

Drink water instead of soft drinks or sugary juices. It is better for your teeth, and you can get all the water you need from a glass of tap water. If you do have a soft drink, make it one small glass per day and limit it to times when you know you will be eating a meal or snack, such as after school.

Cook more meals at home, and if eating out, opt for wraps, kebabs, souvlaki or hamburgers over deep-fried dishes or pastry options. Add a salad to reduce the amount of kilojoules in the meal and choose sauces and toppings that are lower in saturated fat and salt.

Avoid foods that contain saturated and trans fats, as these can lead to high cholesterol, heart disease and some cancers. Instead, use oils such as rapeseed, olive and sunflower oil for cooking and use spreads or salad dressings that are made with these oils.

It’s a good idea to keep fruit and vegetables, such as celery and carrot sticks or grapes, in the fridge, ready for a quick snack. They can also be added to meals and smoothies.

It’s important to teach children about the importance of a healthy diet, and that different foods can provide them with different types of nutrients. They may not be able to eat the right amounts of all foods at all times, but you should keep trying and encourage them to eat healthier options as much as they can. It can take a while for young children to develop a taste for healthy foods, so be patient! And don’t be tempted to try to change their tastes by making certain foods “off-limits”. This can often lead to them wanting these unhealthy foods more as they feel they are being punished.