Healthy eating

Healthy eating isn’t just about sticking to your five a day and not having too many sweets or soft drinks or how many calories in your meal. You should be looking at making sure your plate has all the right foods and the right amount of them. 

You should regularly be eating a mixture of each of the food groups to make sure:

  • Your body has the energy to get through the day
  • You can concentrate in lessons and exams 
  • You’re getting the right nutrients for growth and development 
  • You have healthy hair, teeth, nails and skin. You get this from the nutrients and minerals in your food and drink.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and Coupled with exercise, healthy eating can also help to improve your mood and stress.  The tips below are great ahead of exams too. 

Check whether you're a healthy weight by using the BMI healthy weight calculator.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best.

This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

This page covers healthy eating advice for the general population.
People with special dietary needs or a medical condition should ask their doctor or a registered dietitian for advice.

Food groups 

The Eatwell Guide shows that to have a healthy, balanced diet, people should try to:

  • eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day (see 5 A Day)
  • base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
  • have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
  • eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
  • choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
  • drink plenty of fluids (at least 6 to 8 glasses a day)

If you're having foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar, have these less often and in small amounts.

Try to choose a variety of different foods from the 5 main food groups to get a wide range of nutrients.

Most people in the UK eat and drink too many calories, too much saturated fat, sugar and salt, and not enough fruit, vegetables, oily fish or fibre.

The Eatwell Guide can help you get the right balance of the 5 main food groups. The guide shows you how much of what you eat should come from each food group.

Read more about eating a balanced diet and understanding calories.

You need to drink plenty of fluids to stop you getting dehydrated. The government recommends drinking 6 to 8 glasses every day. This is in addition to the fluid you get from the food you eat. 

All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water, lower fat milk and lower sugar drinks, including tea and coffee, are healthier choices. 

Try to avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks, as they're high in calories. They're also bad for your teeth. 

Even unsweetened fruit juice and smoothies are high in free sugar.

Your combined total of drinks from fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies should not be more than 150ml a day, which is a small glass.

Remember to drink more fluids during hot weather or while exercising.

  • Avoid foods high in sugar and salt – most food packaging uses traffic light labelling for their nutritional information.  You should aim to eat minimal amounts of the amber foods and avoid those that are red. 
  • Swap out sugar for healthy snacks – get on track to reach your five-a-day by grabbing a healthy snack when you next have a sugar craving.
  • Aim for a healthy plate – it’s easy to fill up plates with the foods we enjoy but to get the most for each meal, you should not only aim for a rainbow of colours but also make sure your portion sizes are right. 
  • Avoid gimmicks and fad diets – Not only are your bodies are still growing and developing, you will also be going through many emotional changes and academic pressures.  This is why it’s important to make sure you’re eating enough, eating fresh foods and also enjoying what you eat knowing it’s the fuel your body needs.  Unless your doctor advises you, or are unable to eat certain foods because of allergies or religion reasons, you should not be going on any special diets.  

Get the balance of their diet right using the Eatwell Guide. It shows how much they should eat from each food group.

Read more about what counts as a balanced diet.

If that gets you in the mood to cook up a healthy meal or two for you and your family or friends, you can visit the Change4life website which has recipe ideas, tips for staying active and lots more information about healthy eating.

Visit the Change4life website

The Eatwell Guide applies to vegetarians, vegans, people of all ethnic origins and those who are a healthy weight for their height, as well as those who are overweight.

The only group The Eatwell Guide is not suitable for is children under the age of 2, as they have different needs.

See The Eatwell Guide for more information about a healthy diet. 

As well as eating healthily, regular exercise may help reduce your risk of getting serious health conditions. It's also important for your overall health and wellbeing.

Read more about the benefits of exercise and physical activity guidelines for adults.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight. Have a look on our exercise page to get some advice on getting active