Healthy eating

A healthy, balanced diet combined with plenty of fluids and an active lifestyle can dramatically improve health and well-being. It is an important step towards good health and can reduce the risk of getting a large number of diseases.

Being over, or under, weight can have serious consequences and put a strain on your body's other systems.

And even if your weight is not a problem, having a badly-balanced diet will put your overall health at risk. Good nutrition also improves physical and mental wellbeing.

As we get older sometimes it can feel more difficult to eat well.

Does this sound like you, or someone you know?

  • Do you find it difficult to get to the shops to buy food?
  • Do you have little or no food in the fridge or cupboards?
  • Do you struggle to prepare meals and snacks?
  • Do you find food more expensive these days?
  • Have you lost interest in cooking?
  • Do you eat alone most of the time?
  • Do you forget to eat or often not feel like eating?
  • Do you forget to drink or not feel like drinking?
  • Have you lost weight recently or found your clothes and jewellery fit more loosely?
  • Do you find it painful to chew or swallow?
  • Do you find food tastes or smells differently these days?

These factors may be signs that you are at risk of not getting a healthy and nutritious diet.

Loss of appetite can be a symptom of some illnesses and mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. If you experience long-term appetite loss, speak to your doctor about it.

Your GP may refer you on to a dietician for specialist advice on what to eat.

The following resources can help you eat a healthy diet.

What is a healthy diet?

A healthy diet consists of a variety of foods from all the food groups.

Foods rich in starch and fibre 

These foods help to keep your bowels regular and include:

  • bread
  • rice
  • pasta
  • cereals
  • potatoes
  • oats
  • beans
  • peas
  • lentils
  • fruit
  • vegetables.

Iron-rich foods 

These foods will help keep your blood strong and include:

  • red meat
  • pulses (such as peas, beans and lentils)
  • oily fish (such as sardines)
  • eggs
  • bread
  • green vegetables
  • breakfast cereals with added vitamins.

Foods and drinks rich in vitamin C

This includes:

  • fruit (especially citrus fruit)
  • green vegetables
  • peppers
  • tomatoes
  • potatoes.

Calcium-rich foods 

These foods help keep bones strong and include:

  • dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt
  • green leafy vegetables (such as broccoli and cabbage, but not spinach)
  • soya beans
  • tofu.

NHS resources

Change 4 Life can give you ideas about how to eat well and lead a healthier lifestyle.

NHS Eat Well has information about eating a balanced diet, digestive health and tips and recipes to help you eat healthily.

The free One You Easy Meals app helps you eat foods that are healthier for you. You will find more than 150 delicious, easy, healthier recipes just a tap away.

Everyone needs vitamin D to help the body absorb calcium and phosphorus from their diet. These minerals are important for healthy bones and teeth.

Find out about getting enough vitamin D

Easy read healthy eating resources

Easy Health provide easy read information to help you eat healthily.

Easy read healthy eating leaflets and videos

Help with managing your weight

Being overweight can seriously affect your health. If you're overweight, you're more likely to develop health problems such as heart disease, a stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Most overweight people are overweight because they consume more energy than they use through physical activity. This means that the best way to lose weight is to make achievable, long-lasting changes to your eating and physical activity habits.

The good news

The good news is that losing weight is not only healthy, it is great for self-esteem, confidence and that 'feelgood' factor.

And once you start seeing results, you'll probably want to lose more. You'll also feel able to achieve more, have more energy, and sleep better.

First steps

A good first step to weight loss is to find out what your Body Mass Index (BMI) is.

It is used to estimate a healthy body weight based on height. It's easy to calculate.

Top 10 tips to help you maintain a healthy weight

Consult your GP, who can help you to assess your current diet and levels of physical activity, and set goals for change.

Tip 1: Plan your day in advance

Planning meals and activities ahead means you are more likely to make the healthier choices to stay on track.

Tip 2: Eat regular meals

Following a regular meal pattern is proven to aid weight loss. Have breakfast daily, and plan your meals and snacks to suit your lifestyle: you will avoid feeling hungry and find it easier to stick to the healthier choices.

Tip 3: Eat in a low fat way

Choose lower fat cheeses, milk, yoghurts, spreads, sauces and dressings. Food label information will help you to make low fat choices when shopping. Choose snacks with less than three grams of fat per 100 grams.

Tip 4: Eat your 5 a day

Fruits and vegetables can help you with your weight loss targets in many ways. These fibre-rich foods help to keep you feeling full up and satisfied, as well as adding variety to your meals.

Tip 5: Monitor your progress

Keeping a food and activity diary makes you more aware of your choices and is proven to help you to be more successful with making lifestyle changes. Weigh yourself just once a week at the same time of the day to monitor your weight loss.

Tip 6: Keep active

Try to build activity into your everyday life, for example taking the stairs rather than the lift or getting off the bus/tube a stop earlier.

Tip 7: Include healthy snacks

For example a small bowl of plain popcorn, two oatmeal biscuits with low fat spread/dip, a cereal bar (maximum 100kcal), 200 gram fruit salad, a low calorie hot chocolate drink or a low calorie yoghurt.

Tip 8: Look at food labels

Understanding food labels helps you to make a healthier choice. Look at the calorie, fat and sugar content to guide you to products to support your weight loss goals.

Tip 9: Control your portions

Even when eating the healthier choice it is important to control how much is on your plate. Many people find that simply using a smaller plate can help them to lose weight.

Tip 10: Be mindful when eating

Chewing your food more slowly helps you to recognise when you have had enough. Avoid eating on the go and instead sit at a table to help you focus more on what and how much you are eating.

NHS weight loss plan

Download the NHS weight loss guide – a free 12-week diet and exercise plan.

Keeping your weight up in later life

As you get older, you may start to lose weight, either through illness or loss of appetite.

Maintaining a healthy body weight is important, and there are steps you can take to gain weight healthily.

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