Basics for Healthy Eating

By Elaine Stott on 06 January 2022

"It's not a short term diet it's a long term lifestyle change"

Hi and welcome to the first of the nutrition and diet blogs which is all about the basics of nutrition and a healthy eating plan, not a diet but a lifestyle change to your eating habits. A balanced and healthy plan that works for you, and becomes just your way of life.

It's all about us being able to get ourselves in to a healthy eating, common sense mindset and routine, that to be truthful most of us are aware of already, but sometimes we forget or choose to not think about (I know that's true for me!)

It's not about cutting out food groups or cutting vast amounts of calories. It's not about suddenly eating so much less we are hungry all the time. It's about small tweaks, small changes made as we go along over the weeks as we start to look maybe at losing weight, but definately at becoming a healthier version of ourselves.

It's about adjusting our diet, swapping items for healthier options, eating more higher fibre and wholegrain, eating less processed food, more fresh fuit and vegetables and lower fat and sugar alternatives. Utilising portion control and smaller plates, stopping eating when we are full and using your common sense that if you're going out for a meal for example enjoy it, balance out the rest of the week so you can treat to whaht you want. That's the only way it can become a balanced and sustainable eating plan

So we're going to start with the basics to make sure we're eating a varied and balanced diet:

What is a Healthy Balanced Diet?

See the link below for a super quick guide to a Healthy Balanced Diet from the British Nutrition Foundation

A healthy, balanced diet - British Nutrition Foundation

So many diets you see in the news, social media etc will sometimes say to cut out a food group (Carbs always seem to be shown as bad for us!) but we really do not want to do that, every food group serves a purpose and they all need to be included for us to have that balanced intake of food. We also don't want to say that we cannot eat a certain food (obviously unless you are allergic!)

There are 5 basic food groups that make up a healthy balanced diet, fruit & vegetables, starchy foods (carbohydrates), protein, dairy (or diary alternatives) and olis and fats, but how often do we check we are getting the right balance of each of these food groups on a daily basis? 

Do you know how many portions of each you should be eating daily?

Here's the breakdown:

‚ÄčFruit and Vegetables - 5+ portions per day
Carbohydrates/starchy foods - 3+ portions per day
Protein - 2-3 portions per day
Dairy/ Alternatives - 2-3 portions per day
Oils and spreads - unsaturated - small amount

These spilts can be easily seen in a visual representation on the Eatwell Plate, that I'm sure we've all heard of (download pdf available in resources) You can also buy plates with this guide on to make it really easy, at various shops or online. (I got mine from Home Bargains!)

There's more information coming on each of the food groups in further blogs where you can learn about the food groups in more detail and how to get the most out of each group for your lifestyle, tweaks to make the food groups work better for you and be the heathiest version that you can get.


Do you know what the portion size for each food you eat should be?

Easiest way to measure is to use your hand, you can measure all portions using the different parts of your hand

Palm - 
Handful -
Thumbs - 
Cupped hands - 

The British Nutrition Foundation documents available to download at the bottom of this blog, show you the food groups and the portion size breakdown in much more detail and are fantastic resources to have available at your fingertips.
The Your Balanced Diet poster is a quick look guide, with more indepth information being available in the Your Balanced Diet booklet. Then you get to put it all together in your Balanced Diet - Putting it into practice

As well as this quick link for you on making it sustainable!

Eating healthily and sustainably - British Nutrition Foundation

So to get you started:

Have a look at the downloads available, look at your diet (food diary is a fab way to do this, list everything you eat and drink for 2 weeks) and think about tweaks you can easily make. For example:

Carbs - can you look at more wholemeal, wholegrain, less processed carbs. Brown rice rather than white rice, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta. These swaps can make a huge difference!

Fats - Can we look at healthier fats, unsaturated when ever we can. Healthy fats in food such as nuts and avocados etc. Can we look at lower fat and lower sugar alternatives? Do just check food labels as a lot of low fat items, tend to add more sugar for taste so just be careful

Less processed food - processed meats. ready meals, more fresh meats, fresh vegetables 

Portion sizes - get them right, easiest way to cut down. This is one area most of us will straight away benefit from, just by adjusting our portion sizes to correct size for us

Smaller plates - fools your mind into thinking you have more food as your plate is full

Don't deprive yourself of treats - just make sure you have allocated that treat into your diet and that it is balanced with everything out you've eaten through the day

Stay hydrated - sometimes you are thirsty rather than hungry, you must stay hydrated . Drink plenty of water and other fluids throughout your day to  maintain balance

Do what works for you - your diet will depend on you, these are general guidelines for a healthy balanced eating plan but you need to make sure it suits you and your lifestyle as well.

Good luck and see you on the next blog!