A balanced diet

Healthy eating means getting a wide variety of the right foods into your diet. Easy. So why is all the information about healthy eating so confusing? The Mix goes back to the basics of a balanced diet.

Picture of a plate showing a balanced diet; with vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy and some sweets.

No, you don't have to eat this much food in one go.

What is a balanced diet?

A balanced diet includes all five food groups:

  • Carbohydrates (sugars and starchy food), for energy. Found in potatoes, rice and pasta.
  • Proteins, for building muscle. Found in meat, fish and lentils.
  • Fats, for energy and making cell walls, etc. Found in cheese, fatty meats, biscuits, pies.
  • Fibre, to keep the gut healthy. Found in wholegrain foods, beans, lentils, oats, fruits and vegetables.
  • Vitamins and minerals, for a wide range of functions. There’s lots in fresh fruit and vegetables.

How to eat a balanced diet

1) Eat carbs

Eat regular meals based on carbohydrates in the form of unrefined starchy foods. This means potatoes in their skins, rice, bread and pasta.

2) Eat wholemeal

Wholemeal carbs are the best as they are thought to contain more vitamins and release their energy more steadily, as well as containing fibre.

3) Don’t eat too much sugar (a little bit is fine – life would be miserable without chocolate)

Sugar is ’empty calories’ because it contains only energy without other nutrients (the same goes for alcohol). Save chocolate and sweets for treats as refined sugary food can cause tooth decay and cause fluctuations in blood glucose levels.

4) Eat protein (but not too much)

Protein is only needed in moderate amounts – eat a fist-sized portion at every meal. Go for lean meats, poultry, eggs, fish, beans, lower-fat cheeses, semi-skimmed milk, yoghurts, or soya products.

5) Eat fish

Not everyone likes fish, but it’s packed full of protein and is rich in vitamins and minerals, especially omega-3. Try to have two portions of fish a week.

6) Eat fat! (in small amounts)

Fats are essential to health in small amounts. You need roughly equal amounts of saturates (e.g. butter), monounsaturates (e.g. olive oil) and polyunsaturates (e.g. sunflower oil).

7) Get your vitamins by eating loads of fruit and veg

Vitamins and minerals are best obtained from eating a wide variety of foods. The ones in tablets (and added to fortified cereals) are often not in the same natural forms that are found in food, and may not be absorbed as effectively. Try to eat at least five portions of different kinds of fruit or veg every day to stay in top condition.

Also, make sure you …

8) Drink water

You also need plenty of water, to flush out waste products.

9) Don’t skip meals

Eat breakfast and don’t skip meals. You’ll be more alert and your metabolism will be better. Some evidence suggests having breakfast helps people to control their weight.

10) Exercise

Combine a balanced diet with regular moderate exercise to feel and look your best.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Picture of a plate of food by Shutterstock.