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Eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential for everyone, as it’s an important part of helping to keep you healthy and feeling great.
Not only are fruit and vegetables a good source of vitamins and minerals, they are also an excellent source of dietary fibre, helping you maintain a healthy gut. Fruit and vegetables are usually low in fat and calories (provided you don't fry them or roast them in lots of oil) which is why eating them can help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your heart healthy. Fruit and vegetables taste delicious and there's so much variety to choose from, so what counts as a portion?
The NHS recommend that starchy foods should make up just over a third of everything you eat. Choosing wholegrain or wholemeal varieties of starchy foods, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and brown, wholemeal or higher fibre white bread, is better as it means they contain more fibre, and usually more vitamins and minerals, than white varieties. You should also try to eat potatoes with the skins on as these are also a great source of fibre and vitamins.
Milk and dairy foods, such as cheese and yoghurt, are good sources of protein. They also contain calcium, which helps keep your bones healthy. Go for lower fat and lower sugar products where possible, like choosing semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed milk, as well as lower fat hard cheeses or cottage cheese, and lower fat, lower sugar yoghurt. Dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks, are also included in this food group and when buying these alternatives you should choose unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions.
Beans, pulses, fish, eggs and meat are all good sources of protein, which is essential for the body to grow and repair itself. Choose lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry whenever possible to cut down on fat. Always cook meat thoroughly. Try to eat less red and processed meat like bacon, ham and sausages. Oily fish is particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids, you should aim to eat at least 2 portions of fish a week, including 1 portion of oily fish. You can choose from fresh, frozen or canned, but remember that canned and smoked fish can often be high in salt. Pulses, including beans, peas and lentils, are naturally very low in fat and high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Some fat in the diet is essential but too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease. It's important to get most of your fat from unsaturated oils and spreads. Swapping to unsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol, remember that all types of fat are high in energy and should be eaten in small amounts.