These 8 helpful tips from the NHS act as a brilliant basis for a balanced diet and healthier living. Combined with expert advice and medical support from our GPs, and tailor-made fitness programs from “UK’s fittest man” Zack George, these tips will help you to achieve your weight loss goals and make healthier choices.
The most important factor in a healthy diet and maintaining a consistent weight is to eat the correct number of calories for your weight, sex and activity levels to balance the amount of energy you eat with the energy you use.
It’s recommended that on average men should consume around 2,500 calories a day, and women should consume around 2,000 calories a day. Most UK adults consume more than is recommended.
When you consume more calories than your body uses, the extra energy will be stored in your body as fat. If you eat and drink fewer calories than you use, then you will lose weight. When trying to lose weight, it’s important to eat a sustainable and healthy amount, and ensure you get the nutrients you need for a healthy diet.
You should make sure that you eat a wide variety of foods to make sure you eat a balanced diet and that your body gets all the nutrients it requires.
1) Base your meals on high fibre starchy carbohydrates
Starchy foods are our main source of carbohydrates. They should make up around a third of your total food intake. Examples include bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and cereals.
Try to choose high fibre or wholegrain varieties like brown bread and rice or wholewheat pasta. Fibre is crucial for a healthy digestive system and can help you to feel more full for longer.
The NHS recommends to include at least one starchy carbohydrate with every main meal. Although many people believe that carbohydrates are unhealthy or fattening, compared to fats, they provide fewer than half the calories per gram. This means you can feel more full but consume fewer calories.
Try to be mindful of what fats you are using when cooking. These can dramatically increase calories in your meals. Some examples are creamy sauces, like mayonnaise, butter on bread, or oil on chips or other fried food.
2) Eat more fruits and vegetables
Everyone knows that you should eat a lot of fruit and veg, but most people don’t eat enough.
It’s recommended to eat at least 5 portions of different fruit and vegetables every day. Here are some tips to make this easier:
- Add fruit like sliced banana or berries to your morning breakfast
- Swap a snack for a piece of fruit like an apple or orange.
- Drink a glass of fruit juice or a smoothie. This counts as a portion, but make sure to limit yourself to one a day as these can be high in sugar and damage your teeth.
- Have a side salad with your lunch and add vegetables to your evening meal.
80g of fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables counts as one portion. 30g of dried fruit counts as one portion.
3) Eat more fish
Fish is an excellent source of protein and many vitamins and minerals. Try to eat two portions of fish a week, including at least one portion of oily fish.
Oily fish contain high amounts of omega-3 fats, which are believed to help prevent heart disease. Oily fish include:
Non-oily fish include:
You can eat fresh, frozen and canned fish, but smoke or canned fish may contain higher amounts of salt.
While most people should increase the amount of oily fish they eat, women who wish to have a baby at some point should only have a maximum of 2 portions (140g) of oily fish per week. 4 portions is the recommended maximum for other adults.
4) Reduce saturated fat and sugar
The majority of people in the UK eat too much sugary food. Regularly consuming high sugar foods and drinks increases the risk of obesity and tooth decay.
Sugary foods and drinks have a high number of calories and can easily contribute to weight gain if consumed too often. Sugar can also cause tooth decay, especially when consumed between meals.
Free sugars are defined as any sugar that is added to foods or drinks, or naturally present in unsweetened fruit juices and smoothies, syrups and honey. It is important to try to cut down on this type of sugar, rather than the natural sugars found in fruit and milk.
Free sugars can be found in a wide variety of foods, including:
- Soft drinks or fizzy drinks
- Sugary breakfast cereal
- Puddings and pastries
- Alcoholic drinks
You can find out how much sugar is in your food or drinks by looking for the ‘Carbohydrates (of which sugars)’ number on the label. This can’t tell you how much of this is added sugar, however.
To check this, you can look at the ingredients list, but be careful to look out for other words which describe added sugars, like sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup and honey. The higher these appear on the list, the more likely the food contains a high amount of added sugar.
You do need some fat in your diet to stay healthy, but you should make sure you don’t eat too much and ensure you limit the amount of saturated fat you consume.
The 2 main types of fat are saturated and unsaturated fat:
- Saturated fat: Too much saturated fat can increase cholesterol levels in the body, increasing the risk of developing heart disease.
- Unsaturated fat: Swapping saturated fat for unsaturated fat can help to lower blood cholesterol.
Men should aim to eat less than 30g of saturated fat per day, and women should aim to eat less than 20g per day.
Try to reduce the amount of food you consume that is high in saturated fat and replace these with foods that are high in unsaturated fats like vegetable oil, oily fish, nuts, seed and avocados.
Foods high in saturated fat include:
- Fatty meats
- Meat pies and sausages
- Hard cheese
- Butter and lard
- Coconut or palm oil
All foods containing fat are high in calories, so they should be consumed only in small quantities.
5) Reduce the amount of salt you eat: less than 6g a day
It’s easy to think you don’t eat too much salt, especially if you don’t add it to your food, but many foods we buy already contain high amounts of salt, like cereal, soup, breads and sauces.
Approximately 85% of men and 69% of women eat too much salt. Adults should aim to have less than 6g of salt a day.
Check food labels to see how much salt your food contains, and try to cut this down. High amounts of salt can raise your blood pressure, which can increase your risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke by 3 times compared to normal blood pressure.
6) Be active and maintain a healthy weight
Regular exercise is also important for your overall health and wellbeing, and may help to reduce the risk of serious health conditions. Being overweight can lead to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease or certain cancers. Being underweight can also have a negative impact on your health.
If you’re trying to lose weight, try to eat fewer calories and increase your activity levels. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can also help you to lose weight and ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs.
7) Drink more water
It’s important to drink lots of fluids everyday to prevent dehydration. It is recommended to drink between 6 and 8 glasses per day, in addition to the fluid from the food you eat. When the weather is hotter, make sure to drink more.
Drinks like water, low fat milk, tea and coffee, contain less sugar and are more healthy, but any non-alcoholic drink counts towards your recommended target.
Sweet drinks like soft drinks, fizzy drinks, fruit juices and smoothies contain high amounts of sugar. It’s best to restrict your intake of these types of drinks to one small glass a day.
8) Don’t skip breakfast
Breakfast gives us essential energy for the day, as well as some vitamins and minerals that we need for good health.
People may try to skip breakfast to try and lose weight, but a healthy, high-fibre, breakfast can form part of a healthy, balanced diet. Additionally, research suggests that eating breakfast can help us to control our weight and reduce snacking on food that is high in sugar and fat.
Our recommendation is to have a low sugar cereal with semi-skimmed milk and fruit for a healthy and tasty breakfast.
Expert Weight Loss Advice