Page 1 of 5
A healthy diet may help to prevent certain chronic (long-term) diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It may also help to reduce your risk of developing some cancers and help you to keep a healthy weight. This leaflet explains the principles of a healthy diet. It is general advice for most people. The advice may be different for certain groups of people, including pregnant women, people with certain health problems or those with special dietary requirements.
A note about the different food groups
Your body needs energy to work normally and keep you alive. You get this energy from nutrients in the food that you eat - mostly, carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Minerals and vitamins are other nutrients that are also important in your diet to help your body stay healthy. It is important to get the right balance between these different nutrients to get maximum health benefits (see below). Your diet should contain food from each of the following food groups:
Starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. Fruit and vegetables. Milk and dairy foods. Protein foods. These include meat, fish, eggs and other non-dairy sources of protein (including nuts, tofu, beans, pulses, etc).
Fatty and sugary foods are the fifth food group that you eat. However, only a small amount of what you eat should be made up from fatty and sugary foods. In addition to the above, plenty of fibre and water in your diet is also important for your health.
What are the benefits of a healthy diet?
A healthy diet may help to prevent certain serious diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It may also help to reduce your risk of developing some cancers. If you become sick, eating a healthy diet may help you to recover more quickly. Also, a main way of preventing obesity and overweight is to eat a healthy diet. If you are overweight or obese, eating a healthy diet can help you lose weight.
What makes up a healthy diet?
As a general rule, starchy foods and fruit and vegetables should provide the bulk of most of your meals. About one third of your diet should be made up from starchy foods and about one third from fruit and vegetables. The remaining one third of your diet should be made up from milk and dairy foods and protein foods. As mentioned above, you should limit the amount of foods and drinks that are high in fat or sugar. Below, the principles of a healthy diet are explained. It is general advice for most people. If you have a specific health problem, or specific dietary requirements, this advice may not apply to you. If in doubt, you should check with your doctor. There are also some changes that pregnant women need to make to their diet. See separate leaflet called 'Pregnancy Planning to Become Pregnant' for more details. Eat plenty of starchy foods (complex carbohydrates) As mentioned above, starchy foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, potatoes, rice, and pasta, together with fruit and vegetables, should provide the bulk of most meals. Some
Page 2 of 5
people wrongly think that starchy foods are fattening. In fact, they contain about half the calories of the same weight ...