Healthy eating basic - get your 5 a day

For most of us, we might be out of our usual routines. This may mean we’ve also changed our eating habits. Whist, eating healthily might not be our top priority at the moment, maintaining a healthy balanced diet can help you feel your best.

Here’s our top tips on some health eating basics to remember and where you can find recipe inspiration.

Top 5 Healthy Eating Basics:

1. The food groups to base your diet on

To have a healthy, balanced diet most of us should aim to eat a variety of different foods from the 5 main groups to get a wide range of nutrients

  • Fruit and vegetables: try to eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.
  • Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates: base your meals on higher fibre starchy foods
  • Proteins: make sure to eat beans, pulses, meat, fish or other proteins:
  • Dairy and alternatives: have some dairy or alternatives including soya drinks
  • Oils and spreads: choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts

Make sure to drink plenty of fluids too – at least 6 to 8 glasses a day

2. What counts as your 5 a day?

As well as being a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre the NHS suggests there’s evidence that getting your 5 a day can help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers*.

Your 5 a day can come from fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced fruit and vegetables. Make sure you’re also eating a variety of fruit and vegetables.

Here’s what counts as a portion:

  • 80g of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables
  • 30g of dried fruit
  • 150ml glass of fruit juice or a smoothie. Try to limit this to 1 portion a day as these drinks can be sugary.

Top tip: try adding a tablespoon of dried fruit to your morning cereal and have a piece of fruit as a mid-morning snack.

3. Try to eat more fish

Fish is a good source of protein as well as containing many vitamins and minerals. Try to eat at least 2 portions of fish a week, including 1 portion of oily fish. As they are high in omega-3 fat, eating oily fish may help prevent heart disease.

Oily fish you could try include:

  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Mackerel
  • Herring

The fish you eat can be fresh, frozen or canned. But canned and smoked fish can be high in salt, so make sure to watch out for that.

4. Limit your intake of saturated fat

We need some fat in our diets, but it’s important to pay attention to the amount and type of fat you’re eating. There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.

On average we should aim to eat no more than:

  • 30g of saturated fat a day for Men
  • 20g of saturated fat a day for Women
  • Children under the age of 11 should have less saturated fat than adults.

Foods that you contain saturated fat include:

  • Fatty cuts of meat and sausages
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Cakes
  • Biscuits

When you can, try to choose unsaturated fats such as vegetable oils and spreads, oily fish and avocados.

5. Eat less salt

Having too much salt in our diets can raise our blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke.

Adults and children over 11 should eat no more than 6g of salt, about a teaspoon, a day. With younger children eating even less.

Try to cut down on these foods as they have a high salt content:

  • Processed foods such as ready meals and takeaways
  • Hams, bacon and sausages
  • Snacks such as crisps, salted nuts and biscuits
  • Stock cubes, gravy powder and soy sauce
  • Cheese
  • Prawns, smoked fish and tinned anchovies

Here are some flavouring ideas you could try to help cut down on the salt you use:

  • Sprinkle your potatoes with paprika, ground white or black pepper, chives or mild chilli powder
  • Try salmon or other oily fish with ginger, dill and spring onions
  • Chop coriander into your curries
  • Add garlic or basil to pasta dishes
  • Thyme and sage work well on chicken and turkey

Where to Find New Healthy Recipes to Try:

There’s no short of healthy recipe inspiration out there, from magazines to blogs or videos so you can find new healthy family favourites. But, here’s just a couple of places you could look to start:

BBC Good Food – from store cupboard recipes the whole family will enjoy, to vegan and vegetarian dishes, occasion meals and something for the everyday there’s a whole host of recipes to try.

Change 4 Life – looking for recipes, as well as activities and food facts for your kids? Change 4 life has everything you need to help you and your kid stay well.

YouTube – if you prefer to follow along with someone else, there’s plenty of recipe videos you can find.

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For more advice on healthy eating, check out the NHS Eatwell guide.

Here’s our top tips on 5 healthy eating myths to avoid.

*NHS – Eat Well