Healthy eating habits are about eating the right calories for your activity level. This will ensure that you have the right balance of energy consumption and energy use.
You’ll gain weight if you consume more calories than your body needs. The energy you don’t use will be stored as fat. You’ll lose weight if you drink and eat too much.
To ensure that your body receives all the nutrients it requires, you should eat a variety of foods.
Men should consume around 2,500 calories per day (10,500 kilojoules). Women should consume around 2000 calories per day (8,400 kilojoules).
The majority of adults in the UK eat more calories than they need. They should consume fewer calories.
1. Your meals should be based on high fibre starchy carbohydrates
About a third should be made up of starchy carbohydrates. These include bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, pasta, and cereals.
Select wholegrain or higher-fiber varieties such as wholewheat pasta or brown rice, or potatoes with their skins still on.
These carbohydrates are rich in fibre and can make you feel fuller for longer periods of time.
Include at least one starchy vegetable with every main meal. Starchy foods may be thought to be fattening. However, gram for gram, the amount of carbohydrate in starchy foods provides less than half the calories of fat.
When you cook or serve these foods, be mindful of the fats that you use. This is what will increase the calories.
2. Get lots of fruits and vegetables
You should eat at most 5 portions of different fruits and vegetables every day. You can eat them fresh, frozen, canned or dried.
It’s easier than you think to get your 5 A Day. You can chop a banana and add it to your breakfast cereal or switch your mid-morning snack to a piece fresh fruit.
80g is the average serving size of fresh, canned, or frozen fruits and vegetables. A 30g portion of dried fruits (which should only be consumed at mealtimes) will suffice.
One portion is a 150ml glass fruit juice, vegetable juice, or smoothie. However, you should limit how many of these drinks you consume per day because they can cause tooth damage.
3. Consume more fish, and include a small amount of oily fish
Fish is an excellent source of protein, and it also contains many vitamins.
You should aim to consume at least 2 portions of fish per week, which includes at least 1 portion of oily fish.
Omega-3 fats are high in oily fish, which could help to prevent heart disease.
Oily fish include:
These are non-oily fish:
There are three options: canned, frozen, and fresh. However, remember that canned and smoke fish can have high salt content.
While most people should eat more fish, there are limits to certain types of fish.
4. Reduce saturated fats and sugar intake
While you need to eat some fat, it is important to be aware of the type and amount of fat you are consuming.
There are two main types of fats: unsaturated and saturated. Saturated fats can raise cholesterol levels, increasing your chances of developing heart disease.
Men should not consume more than 30g saturated fat per day. Women should consume no more than 20g saturated fat per day.
Children younger than 11 years old should consume less saturated fat than adults. However, children below 5 years of age shouldn’t eat a low-fat diet.
Many foods contain saturated fat, including:
- Fattier cuts of meat
- hard cheese
Reduce your intake of saturated fat and eat more unsaturated fats such as vegetable oils, spreads, fish, and avocados.
You can make your choice healthier by using a smaller amount of vegetable oil or olive oil or a reduced-fat spread in place of butter, lard, or ghee.
Choose lean meat cuts and trim any visible fat.
All fats are high in energy so it is important to eat them in small quantities.
Consuming sugary foods and drinks regularly increases your chances of developing tooth decay and obesity.
Sugary foods and drinks can be high in energy, measured in kilojoules and calories. This can lead to weight gain if they are consumed too often. Sugary foods and drinks can cause tooth decay, especially when eaten between meals.
Sugars that are not added to food or beverages or found in honey, syrups, unsweetened fruit juices, and smoothies, are called free sugars.
This is the type sugar you should reduce, not the sugar in milk and fruit.
Many packaged foods and beverages contain surprising amounts of sugars.
Many foods contain no sugar, including:
- sugary fizzy drinks
- Sugary breakfast cereals
- Pastries and desserts
- Sweets and chocolate
- Alcoholic drinks
Food labels can help. These labels can be used to determine how much sugar is in foods.
Food with more than 22.5g total sugars per 100g is considered high-sugar. Foods with less than 5g total sugars per 100g are considered low-sugar.
5. Adults should eat no more salt than 6g per day
Salt intake can increase blood pressure. High blood pressure is associated with a higher risk of stroke or heart disease.
Salt can still be added to food.
Three-quarters of all the salt in food you eat comes from the food you buy, including breakfast cereals, soups, breads, and sauces.
To cut down on salt, you can use food labels. Foods with more than 1.5g salt per 100g are considered high-salt.
Children aged 11 years and older should not eat more than 6g (or about a teaspoonful) of salt per day. Children younger than 11 years old should consume less salt.
6. Be active and maintain a healthy weight
Regular exercise can help you avoid serious health problems. Regular exercise is important for your overall well-being and health.
Learn more about the health benefits of exercise for adults.
Obesity can cause health problems such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancer. Your health could also be affected by being underweight.
Adults need to lose weight.
To lose weight, eat less and exercise more. Healthy eating habits and a balanced diet will help you to maintain a healthy weight.
Use the BMI Healthy Weight Calculator to determine if you are a healthy weight.
The 12-week-long NHS weight loss program is a guide to healthier eating and more physical activity.
If you’re underweight, see underweight adults. Ask your doctor or dietitian if you are concerned about your weight.
7. Don’t get thirsty
To avoid dehydration, you need to drink plenty. According to the government, you should drink 6-8 glasses of fluids per day. This is in addition the fluids you get from your food.
All non-alcoholic beverages count. However, water, low fat milk, and lower sugar drinks (including tea) are better choices.
Avoid sugary fizzy and soft drinks. They are high in calories. They can also be harmful to your teeth.
Even smoothies and fruit juices that are not sweetened contain high levels of sugar.
The daily intake of fruit juice, vegetable juice, and smoothies combined should not exceed 150ml per day. This is a small amount.
It is important to drink more fluids in hot weather and while exercising.
8. Breakfast is a must
People skip breakfast for the sake of losing weight.
A healthy breakfast rich in fibre, low in sugar, salt, and fat can be part of a balanced diet and help you get the nutrients that you need to maintain good health.
Wholegrain cereals with lower sugar and semi-skimmed milk are a delicious and healthier way to start the day.