Fruit and vegetables
Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. This section should make up just over a third of the food you eat each day.
Reduce salt and sugar intake
Most of us eat too much sugar. Some foods, such as fresh fruit, contain some natural sugars. But sugars are also added to many foods such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolates and fizzy drinks. These additional sugars are called free sugars. Fruit juices are also high in free sugars. Foods and drinks high in sugar are usually high in calories, so eating or drinking them too frequently can make you gain weight. Regularly having sugary foods and drinks also puts you at risk of tooth decay. Guidelines recommend that you don’t eat more than 30g of free sugars a day – this is around the same as seven sugar cubes.
Fats are a really concentrated source of energy and they also have other roles, such as helping to transport essential vitamins around your body. They are an important part of your diet but you don’t need very much – most of us need to eat less. The type of fat you eat is also important.
Saturated fat can raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. It's found in foods such as fatty or processed meats, butter, cheese, cream, chocolate, cakes, pastries and biscuits.
It's best not to have too much saturated fat in your diet. Try to swap saturated fats with foods rich in unsaturated (good) fats when you can. Unsaturated fats are found in oils such as olive oil and rapeseed oil. They can help to lower your cholesterol levels. Include small amounts of these in your diet and swap butter for lower-fat spreads.
Trans fats are another type of fat that can raise your cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of heart disease. They're potentially even worse for your health than saturated fats. Food manufacturers have now reduced the amount of trans fats in many foods, but they may still be present in certain foods. These include biscuits, pies, cakes and fried foods, as well as takeaway foods. Limiting these types of food will help keep your intake of both saturated and trans fats to a minimum.
Meat, fish, beans, pulses, eggs and nuts are all important non-dairy sources of protein– and we should aim to include moderate amounts in our diet. Proteins are essential to grow and repair tissues in your body, as well as being a source of energy.
Aim to eat two portions of fish a week. One of these should be an oily fish such as mackerel, salmon or pilchards. If you don't eat fish, you can get some omega-3 fatty acids from nuts, seeds and their oils. You may also want to consider taking a supplement containing omega-3 fats.
Limit the amount of red and processed meat you eat (such as sausages and beef burgers) as these foods often contain lots of fat and salt. They may also increase your risk of bowel cancer. Some types of meat are high in fat, so always cut off any extra fat and skin. Grill, bake or poach meat and fish rather than fry it.
Beans, peas and lentils are a great alternative to meat because they're low in fat while being high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.