This guide will show you how much of what you eat overall should come from different food groups.
A healthy, balanced diet includes a decent amount of fruit, veggies and starchy carbs – plus some dairy, meat, fish, pulses and other kinds of protein too.
Fruit and Vegetables
You should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. They contain important vitamins and minerals that help prevent disease. They’re also jam-packed with fibre that can lower cholesterol, keep the bowel healthy, and help digestion.
Fruit and vegetables are low in fat, so they’re great for bulking out meals and making you feel full without adding too many calories.
It’s easy to get your five a day if you spread your portions through the day. Check out the full list of tips on the Food Standards Scotland website.
Starchy stuff like potatoes, bread, rice and pasta should make up around a third of what you eat. They’re a good source of energy and essential fibre, calcium, iron and vitamins.
Decent examples of wholegrains are brown rice, wholewheat pasta, whole oats, wholegrain breakfast cereals and wholemeal bread, pitta and – if you’re feeling fancy – tasty chapatti.
Dairy and dairy alternatives are massively good sources of protein and vitamins. They’re also packed with calcium, which helps keep our bones healthy and strong.
Dairy-free milk alternatives include soya milk and nut milk. If you choose dairy-free milk then it’s best to go for unsweetened varieties which have been fortified with calcium.
When choosing cheese, it’s a smart idea to use a strong flavoured one, like mature cheddar. Because the strong flavour packs enough of a punch, it means you can use less without sacrificing taste. This simple kitchen life hack means you reduce fat and save money too.
There are loads of sources of protein, including pulses, fish, oil-rich fish, meat and eggs.
Remember that meat also contains fat. If you eat too much fat, it can be bad for your health. So check out these tips to help you cut the amount of fat in your meat dishes:
- Swap some of the meat for beans, peas and lentils – this will help your meal go further
- Grill meat rather than fry it.
- If you’re roasting meat place it on a metal rack above the roasting tin so that nasty fats can run out.
- Choose lean cuts and leaner mince.
- Cut off excess fat before or after cooking.
- Add as little fat as possible before or during cooking.
- Switch out some of the meat in your recipe for vegetable sources of protein.
Some fat in our diet is essential, but most of us eat too much. Food and drink high in fat, salt or sugar includes chocolate, cakes, biscuits, savoury snacks and full-sugar soft drinks. In Scotland, half of the sugar we eat and around 20% of the calories and fat we consume comes from this kind of food. Food high in fat, salt and sugar is usually packed with calories but not too much in the way of nutritionally good stuff. That means we don’t need it as part of a healthy balanced diet.
Try to eat this kind of food less often and in small amounts.
The body is constantly losing fluid through breathing, sweating or going to the toilet. That means it’s got to be replaced. Aim to sip, slurp or chug 6 to 8 glasses of water each day to keep your body tip top and hydrated.
The good news is it’s not just water that counts towards hydration. Lower fat milk and sugar-free drinks, including tea and coffee, are fine too. Just remember to go for sugar free options instead of sugary drinks.
Top tips on how to break the habit of snacking:
- Track the snacks – This is a good life hack if you’re a snacker who finds the thought of giving up snacks completely a bit overwhelming. Write down a food diary of what you eat over seven days, and have a look over just what you’re eating at the end of the week.
- Make a shopping list – Your list will help you avoid certain aisles where the snacks may be!
- Hide snacks away – You might find that you snack less if you can’t see things to snack on.
- Do something different – A lot of the time when we snack, we’re bored rather than hungry. When your cravings hit try and distract yourself. Why not take up a new hobby as a distraction.
- Drink plenty of tap water – The best part? It’s free.
- Spot the habit – Sometimes we associate different activities with certain snacks, such as a cup of tea and a biscuit! If you spot the habit you will be more likely to break it.
Check out the interactive Eatwell Guide for more healthy eating tips.
Head back to the Food Standards Scotland campaign page for more information on food safety, healthy eating tips and more.