A healthy diet consists of regular, well-balanced meals and snacks that provide the nutrients needed to promote health and prevent disease. It is an approach to eating that considers preferences, cultural traditions and budgetary considerations. The current definition of a healthy diet reflects the evolving understanding of the roles that different types and amounts of nutrients and food groups play in promoting health and preventing common non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
A good start to a healthy diet is to identify and eliminate unhealthy foods, while slowly increasing the proportion of healthier foods. This will help you feel in control and not deprived, so you are more likely to maintain a healthy diet in the long run.
Make a list of your favorite meals and then search for recipes that contain less sugar, saturated fat and salt. Keep these healthy versions on hand when you need a quick snack or a new dinner idea.
Eat a wide variety of foods from the 5 major food groups every day, and in the recommended quantities. This includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy and protein foods and fluids. A diet rich in these foods will give you a variety of essential nutrients, such as dietary fibre, calcium and vitamin D, and help to control your weight.
Limit processed foods, as they are often high in saturated fats and/or salt. Choose lean meats and poultry, fish and eggs as protein sources.
Use healthy cooking methods, such as baking, grilling and steaming, rather than frying. Reduce your intake of kilojoule-rich liquids, such as soft drinks and energy drinks. If you drink these, limit them to one or two per day.
Keep a supply of healthy snacks on hand to avoid overeating. Options include fresh or dried fruit, nuts and seeds, yogurt, vegetable sticks, unbuttered popcorn, rice cakes and whole grain crackers.
When dining out, compare kilojoule information on menus before you order. Choose lower calorie choices, such as a chicken salad with a reduced-fat dressing or a pizza with half the cheese.
Try to limit your consumption of saturated and trans fats, as they are linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Replace these fats with unsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. Reduce your sodium intake, as it is linked to high blood pressure. Choose canned and frozen vegetables with no added salt. Limit the amount of salt used at home and when eating out. Try using herbs and spices to add flavour to foods, rather than relying on salty sauces and condiments.