In a world where the advice on what is healthy seems to change almost daily, deciding what to eat can get confusing. From lean protein to enjoying your five-a-day, read our top tips for a balanced diet
A great source of lean protein and heart-healthy omega 3 fats, fish is an essential part of your diet
We should all be aiming for at least 5 portions of vegetables and fruit each day. Try to eat more vegetables than fruit as they are lower in sugar. Both vegetables and fruit contain protective vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals so having a good supply is beneficial for health . Eating a range of different colours, red, orange, green, purple etc helps you obtain a wide mixture of protective nutrients.
What counts towards my five portions a day?
All fruits and vegetables count, whether they are fresh, frozen, canned, dried or pureed.
What counts as a portion?
One five-a-day-worthy portion of fruit or veg is around 80g. This equates to roughly: a whole, medium-sized fruit e.g. banana, orange, nectarine; a handful of berries; half an avocado, one average slice of melon, two slices of mango; three heaped tablespoons of chopped vegetables or cooked pulses; one heaped tablespoon of dried fruit. For more details visit
Bread, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasta, and grains such as rice, quinoa, millet and corn are important sources of energy in our diet. are important sources of energy in our diets. They provide both complex and simple carbohydrates that our bodies need for energy, providing a rich source of fibre, B vitamins, iron, and folate.
Choosing wholegrain options gives you the goodness of the whole of the grain – more fibre, more vitamins, minerals and protective plant chemicals. Wholegrains contain 75 per cent more nutrients than milled versions.
Wholegrain, starchy foods should make up about a third of our diet so they ideally need to be included in every meal. Did you know... starchy foods are often viewed as fattening but carbohydrates actually provide fewer calories per gram than fat.
Starchy foods, particularly wholegrains, are great sources of fibre, which is important for a healthy digestive system. We need about 30g of fibre a day. Sometimes fibre is classified as insoluble or soluble:
Fish is a great source of protein and heart-healthy omega 3 fats, which are key to growth and development. It’s also low in saturated fat yet rich in a range of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A and D.
Aim for two portions (120g each) of fish a week, of which should be an oily fish. White fish includes cod, haddock, plaice, pollock and hake; oily fish includes salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel and kippers.
The importance of omega 3
Oily fish is a rich source of heart-healthy long-chain omega 3 fats, which are needed for brain and visual development. Research has shown diets rich in fish and omega 3 help lower the risk of heart disease.
Plant sources of omega 3, such as linseeds, chia seeds and plant oils, provide short-chain omega 3, which our bodies have to convert into long-chain versions and our bodies are pretty inefficient at doing so. However these are important vegetarian and vegan sources omega 3
Did you know that all of our Lochmuir salmon are fed an omega 3-rich diet? Every fillet provides you with your entire week’s omega 3 intake (3g). Look out for our Eat Well sunflower and omega 3 messages on our packaging to boost your intake.
Meat, poultry, fish, eggs as well as pulses (lentils, beans and peas) and nuts provide essential protein. This is needed for growth and development as well as the maintenance of our cells. Protein is made up of amino acids, some of which our bodies can’t make so need to be provided by the diet. Choosing lean sources of meat or skinless poultry such as chicken, help to boost the protein in your diet yet manage your intake of saturated fats and including a variety helps to provide your body with all the amino acids it needs.
Animal protein are often the richest, however good plant protein sources include soya, tofu, pulses and nuts. Remember to include a variety of different protein sources - use the Eat Well logo to guide you
What about red meat?
Red meat is a rich source of protein as well as iron and zinc, two minerals which are often low in our diets. A healthy diet can include red meat as a rich source of these nutrients but aim for no more than 70g a day (cooked weight) and balance your diet with other sources of protein as well. Processed meats which may have been cured or smoked such as bacon, sausages, ham chorizo etc are best enjoyed in small quantities only occasionally.
Dairy foods are an important source of protein, calcium and iodine as well as riboflavin and vitamin B12. Try to choose lower fat options such as semi-skimmed milk and low-fat yoghurt and enjoy cheese on occasion as it is often higher in salt.
If you are avoiding dairy in your diet, choose a dairy alternative that has been fortified or enriched to provide alternative sources of these important nutrients. Look out for our Eat Well logo on all lower fat dairy.
Our bodies need salt to function but too much can increase blood pressure and in turn increase the risk of heart disease or stroke. Most people in the UK are eating too much salt, whether from the balance of foods in their diet or from adding it to their cooking.
How much? Adults should have no more than 6g of salt a day and children should have even less. Although salt intake has been decreasing in the UK, it is still too high.
How to reduce your salt intake
Sugars are simple carbohydrates which our body breaks down to provide an instant source of energy. Diets high in sugar can increase the risk of tooth decay and increase calories which can lead to weight gain. Diets high in sugary drinks have been associated with an increased risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
Sugars can either be added to foods as cane sugar, honey, syrups and nectars, or are naturally present in some foods such as milk, milk products, fruits and vegetables. Both naturally present and added sugars are processed in the same way by our bodies and provide the same number of calories per gram.
The amount of sugar in our diets has been falling but it’s still too high, particularly for children and teenagers. Government advice recommends reducing the amount of 'free sugars' in our diet which includes foods with added sugars as well as fruit juices and smoothies which are naturally high in sugar. Sugars naturally present in dairy products and whole fruit and veg do not count. Try to stick to the below free sugar recommendations:
Children 4-6yrs: less than 19g/day.
Children 7-10yrs: less than 24g/day.
Adults and children 11+: less than 30g/day.
How to reduce your sugar intake
Nutritional labelling on food and drinks can only label total sugar – this includes added sugars and naturally occurring sugars. You can help to reduce the amount of free sugars in your diet by following the below recommendations:
Dried fruits are also naturally high in sugar and can stick to your teeth, potentially impacting your dental health. Enjoy these foods as part of a meal rather than on their own. One portion of dried fruit is about 30g.
Our bodies need a small amount of fat from our diets to provide essential fats such as omega 3 and to help us absorb vitamins. However, fats provide 9kcal per gram (twice that of carbohydrates and protein) so foods high in fat can be high in calories, making it easy to consume more calories than you need. Not only is the amount of fat in our diet important but the type of fat is crucial too. There are two main types of fat: saturated fat and unsaturated fat.
Sometimes called good fats as diets high in these have been found to be beneficial to health. Fats high in unsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature, for example olive and rapeseed oil. Other foods high in unsaturated fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, fish and oily fish. Swapping foods high in saturated fats for foods higher in unsaturated fats can help to lower cholesterol and support a healthy heart.
Foods high in saturated fat are easy to spot as they usually remain solid at room temperature, for example coconut oil, lard, butter, cheese, fatty cuts of meat as well as cream, cakes and pastries. Too much saturated fat increases our cholesterol which can increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Most of us eat too much saturated fat so try to include no more than 20g a day.
How to reduce your saturated fat intake
From light and bright salads to hearty tagines and desserts, there's something for everyone in our ready-made veggie range
Our tasty veggie-meal ideas will help bring some fresh inspiration to meat-free meals. Maximum flavour, guaranteed