Eating a balanced diet (2024)

Eating a healthy, balanced dietis an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best.

This means eatinga wide varietyof foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

This page covers healthy eating advice for the general population.

People with special dietary needs or a medical condition should ask their doctor or a registered dietitian for advice.

Food groups in your diet

The Eatwell Guide shows that to have a healthy, balanced diet, people should try to:

  • eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day (see 5 A Day)
  • basemeals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
  • have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
  • eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
  • choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
  • drink plenty of fluids (at least 6 to 8 glasses a day)

If you're having foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar, have these less often and in small amounts.

Try to choose a variety of different foods from the 5 main food groups to get a wide range of nutrients.

Mostpeople in the UKeat and drink too many calories, too much saturated fat, sugar and salt, and not enough fruit, vegetables, oily fishor fibre.

The Eatwell Guide does not apply to children under the age of 2 because they have different nutritional needs.

After the age of 2 years, children should move to eating the same foods as the rest of the family in the proportions shown in the Eatwell Guide.

Fruitand vegetables: are you getting your 5 A Day?

Fruit and vegetables area good source of vitamins and minerals and fibre, and should make up just over a third of the food you eat each day.

It's recommended that you eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. They can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced.

There's evidence that people whoeat at least5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

Eating5 portions is not as hard as it sounds.

A portion is:

  • 80g of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables
  • 30g of dried fruit – which should be kept to mealtimes
  • 150ml glass of fruit juice or smoothie – but do not have more than 1 portion a day as these drinks are sugary and can damage teeth

Just 1 apple, banana, pear or similar-sized fruit is 1 portion each.

A slice of pineapple or melon is also 1 portion, and 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables is another portion.

Adding a tablespoon of dried fruit, such as raisins, to your morning cereal is an easy way to get 1 portion.

You could also swap your mid-morning biscuit for a banana, and add a side salad to your lunch.

In the evening, have a portion of vegetableswith dinner and fresh fruitwith plain, lower fat yoghurt for dessert to reach your 5 A Day.

Find out more about what counts towards your 5 A Day

Starchyfoods in your diet

Starchy foods should make upjust overa third of everything you eat. This means your meals should be based on these foods.

Choose wholegrain or wholemeal varieties of starchy foods, such as brown rice, wholewheat pasta, and brown, wholemeal or higher fibre whitebread.

They contain more fibre, and usually more vitamins and minerals, than white varieties.

Potatoes with the skins onarea great source of fibre and vitamins. For example, when having boiled potatoes or a jacket potato, eat the skin too.

Find out more about starchy foods

Milkand dairy foods (and alternatives)

Milk and dairy foods, such as cheese and yoghurt, are good sources of protein.Theyalso contain calcium, which helps keep your bones healthy.

Go for lower fat and lower sugar products where possible.

Choose semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmedmilk, as well as lower fat hard cheeses or cottage cheese, and lower fat, lower sugar yoghurt.

Dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks, are also included in this food group.

When buying alternatives, choose unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions.

Find out more about milk and dairy foods

Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins

These foods are all good sources of protein, which is essential for the body to grow and repair itself.

They're also good sources of a range of vitamins and minerals.

Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc and Bvitamins. It's also one of the main sources of vitamin B12.

Choose lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry whenever possible to cut down on fat. Always cook meat thoroughly.

Try to eat less red and processed meat like bacon, ham and sausages.

Find out more about including meat in your diet

Eggs and fish are also good sources of protein, and contain many vitamins and minerals. Oily fish is particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Aim to eat at least 2 portions of fish a week, including 1 portion of oily fish.

You can choose from fresh, frozen or canned, but remember that cannedand smoked fish can oftenbe high in salt.

Pulses, including beans, peas and lentils, are naturally very low in fat and high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Nuts are high in fibre, and unsalted nuts make agood snack. But they do still contain high levels of fat, so eat them in moderation.

Oilsand spreads

Some fat in the diet is essential, but on average people in the UK eat too much saturated fat.

It's important to get most of your fat from unsaturated oils and spreads.

Swapping to unsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol.

Remember that all types of fat are high in energy and should be eaten in small amounts.

Find out more about the different types of fats

Eat less saturated fat, sugar and salt

Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.

Regularly consuming foods and drinks high in sugar increases your risk of obesity and tooth decay.

Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which increases your risk of getting heart disease or having a stroke.

See 8 tips for healthy eating to find out more about why you need to cut down on saturated fat, sugarand salt, which foods they're found in,and how to make healthier choices.

Find out more about how to eat less saturated fat

Need to lose weight?

Most adults in England are overweight or obese. Check whether you're a healthy weight using the BMI calculator.

If you need to lose weight, you can use the NHS weight loss plan. It's a free 12-week diet and exercise plan to help you lose weight and develop healthier habits. It has been designed to help you lose weight safely, and keep it off.

Information:

Self-refer for help with your weight

If you need help managing your weight, you might be able to refer yourself directly to services that can help you, without seeing a GP.

To find out if there are any services in your area:

  • ask the reception staff at your GP surgery
  • check your GP surgery’s website
  • contact your integrated care board (ICB) – find your local ICB
  • search online for NHS weight management services near you
Eating a balanced diet (2024)

FAQs

What is a balanced diet answers? ›

A balanced diet contains all of the essential elements that the human body needs. Carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, minerals, proteins, fiber, and water are all essential components in a well-balanced diet. A nutritious, well-balanced diet lowers the risk of disease and enhances general health.

What is the importance of eating a balanced diet? ›

A healthy diet is essential for good health and nutrition. It protects you against many chronic noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Eating a variety of foods and consuming less salt, sugars and saturated and industrially-produced trans-fats, are essential for healthy diet.

What happens if you eat a balanced diet? ›

A well-balanced diet provides all of the: energy you need to keep active throughout the day. nutrients you need for growth and repair, helping you to stay strong and healthy and help to prevent diet-related illness, such as some cancers.

What are the 7 things you need in a balanced diet? ›

By having an idea of the balance in your diet, it should be easier to enjoy food and be healthy. There are seven essential factors for a balanced diet: carbs, protein, fat, fibre, vitamins, minerals and water. The rough percentage of daily calories that should come from each factor is shown in Table 10.

What makes a balanced diet? ›

The Eatwell Guide shows that to have a healthy, balanced diet, people should try to: eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day (see 5 A Day) base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta. have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)

What is the diet answer? ›

In nutrition, diet is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism. The word diet often implies the use of specific intake of nutrition for health or weight-management reasons (with the two often being related).

What are 5 benefits of healthy eating? ›

5 Benefits of Eating Healthy
  • Weight Loss. One of the main reasons people eat a healthy diet is to maintain a healthy weight or to lose weight. ...
  • Heart Health. ...
  • Strong bones and teeth. ...
  • Better mood and energy levels. ...
  • Improved memory and brain health.

How to have a well balanced diet? ›

8 tips for healthy eating
  1. Base your meals on higher fibre starchy carbohydrates. ...
  2. Eat lots of fruit and veg. ...
  3. Eat more fish, including a portion of oily fish. ...
  4. Cut down on saturated fat and sugar. ...
  5. Eat less salt: no more than 6g a day for adults. ...
  6. Get active and be a healthy weight. ...
  7. Do not get thirsty. ...
  8. Do not skip breakfast.

What does a healthy diet look like? ›

A healthy eating plan: Emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. Limits saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars.

Why is it important to have good health? ›

Your health is one of the most important things in your life. It affects your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. That's why it's so important to be proactive about your health and take steps to prevent illness and disease. Being proactive in health means taking steps to improve your health before you get sick.

What are the 5 effects of balanced diet? ›

5 Major Impacts of a Well-Balanced Diet
  • Maintain Normal Body Function. As we age, you may notice that you cannot hear quite as well or have trouble remembering simple notes that in previous years would have been no problem! ...
  • Maintain Healthy Weight. ...
  • Prevent Diseases. ...
  • Mood & Energy. ...
  • Provide Stress Relief.

Why is healthy eating important? ›

Food nourishes the body and gives us energy to get through each day. Healthy eating is fundamental to good health and is a key element in healthy human development, from the prenatal and early childhood years to later life stages. Healthy eating is equally important in reducing the risk of many chronic diseases.

What should be avoided in a balanced diet? ›

Foods to Avoid or Limit
  • Highly processed foods.
  • Refined grains.
  • Refined sugars.
  • Sweetened drinks.
  • Red and processed meats.
  • Saturated and trans fats.
  • High-glycemic foods.

What is a balanced diet in a short paragraph? ›

A balanced diet includes food from every group to help sustain a healthy mind, body, and spirit. Carbohydrates, vitamins, fats, minerals and proteins are the five main food groups that must be incorporated into every diet. Lack of carbohydrates could lead to exhaustion and fatigue.

What is a balanced diet for kids? ›

A healthy, balanced diet includes foods from all 5 food groups: fruit, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy. Foods high in sugar, saturated fat and salt aren't necessary for a healthy diet and should be limited.

What does balanced diet mean you? ›

Balanced diet means you eat a variety of foods without eating anything too much.

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