When it comes to a healthy diet, balance is the key to getting it right. This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions.
But achieving that balance in modern life can be tricky. After a long day, it can be tempting to grab the first ready meal on the supermarket shelf, which is OK occasionally. But the nutritional labels on these foods show that many ready meals contain high levels of fat, added sugar and salt. If you eat ready meals too often, they'll upset the balance in your diet.
All the food we eat can be divided into five groups. In a healthy diet you eat the right balance of these groups.
Fruit and vegetables.
Fruit and vegetables are a vital source of vitamins and minerals. It's advised that we eat five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day.
Starchy foods such as bread, cereals, potatoes, pasta, maize and cornbread are an important part of a healthy diet. They are a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients in our diet. Starchy foods are fuel for your body.
Starchy foods should make up around one third of everything we eat. This means we should base our meals on these foods.
Meat, fish, eggs and beans.
These foods are all good sources of protein, which is essential for growth and repair of the body. They are also good sources of a range of vitamins and minerals.
Around 15% of the calories that we eat each day should come from protein.
Milk and dairy foods.
Milk and dairy foods such as cheese and yoghurt are good sources of protein. They also contain calcium, which helps to keep your bones healthy.
But some dairy products are high in saturated fat. Eating too much saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. To enjoy the health benefits of dairy without eating too much fat, use semi-skimmed milk, skimmed milk or 1% fat milks, lower-fat hard cheeses or cottage cheese, and lower-fat yoghurt.
Foods containing fat and sugar.
Most people in the UK eat too much fat and too much sugar.
Fats and sugar are both good sources of energy for the body. But when we eat too much of them we consume more energy than we burn, and this can mean that we put on weight. This can lead to obesity, which increases our risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.