A healthy diet is about choosing foods and drinks that provide you with all the nutrients you need. It should include a variety of different foods from the main groups, including fruit and vegetables, whole grains, dairy and protein. This will help to give you energy and keep you full and nourished. It is also important to drink enough fluids to stop you getting dehydrated.
It is recommended to have 6 to 8 glasses of water a day, as well as other non-alcoholic beverages, such as tea and coffee. Avoid sugary soft drinks, which can be high in both calories and free sugars. Try adding slices of lime or lemon or berries to your water for added flavour.
Highly processed foods should be eaten only occasionally, as they tend to be high in salt and fat and low in fibre and vitamins and minerals. Examples of processed foods include fast foods, chips, cookies, frozen pizzas and deli meats.
Cooking at home from scratch is a great way to control the amount of fat you are eating, as it is easier to monitor portion sizes when cooking at home. Having meals made up of lean proteins, starchy carbohydrates and veg will also help to keep you full.
Plan your meals for the week ahead so you know what you are going to eat and can make healthy choices even when you are busy. This can also save you money as it stops you buying takeaways and other convenience foods. Try preparing a shopping list based on the meals and snacks you are going to eat, and only buy what is on the list.
Satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way by using natural sources of sweetness such as bananas, avocados, pears, apples and kiwi fruits. Add these to your meals, or eat them on their own as a snack. Cooking veggies like carrots, beets, squash, onions and peppers in a range of ways – roasting, boiling and stir frying – can also bring out their natural sweetness so you don’t need to add extra sugar.
Choose lower fat milk, yoghurt and unsweetened, fortified soy drinks rather than higher-fat options. Alternatively, opt for black coffee at cafes. Keep healthy snacks on hand, such as a piece of fruit, some yoghurt and a wholemeal pitta with hummus. When you eat out, ask for salads and grilled, roast or stir fry veggies instead of fried ones.
It can be a challenge to change your habits, so try not to think of healthy food as ‘everyday’ foods and ‘occasional’ foods. Eating unhealthy foods will make you crave them more, and can lead to overeating and weight gain. Instead, aim to reduce the amount of unhealthy foods you eat, and slowly replace them with healthier alternatives. It takes your body a while to realise it is full, so eat slowly and don’t eat until you feel satisfied. It also helps to eat with others, as this can encourage mindful eating.