How to make healthy food choices

We’ve all been told from a young age to eat well. But it’s easy to forget why – and how – we should maintain a balanced diet. Learn the benefits of eating well and get a step-by-step guide to making healthy food choices.

This can help if:

  • you want a balanced diet but you don’t know where to start

  • you know your diet isn’t great and need motivation to change

  • you're looking for a healthier lifestyle.

Girl in hijab standing in kitchen

Why eat well?

We've all heard it before, but it's true: eating well is really good for you. When you eat a well-balanced diet:

  • your energy levels will be optimised

  • you’ll feel healthier and stronger

  • your immune system will be tougher

  • you’ll think more clearly and handle stress better

  • your chances of developing diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease will decrease.

It’s all about balance

A balanced diet is one where you eat a wide variety of mostly healthy foods in moderation. There’s a big difference between eating well and becoming obsessive about calories, portion size and ‘clean eating’. Being healthy isn’t just about the way you look or how much you weigh.

No food is off-limits when you maintain a healthy diet – it’s just a question of how often you eat it and how much of it you eat. So, don’t overthink it, and definitely don’t feel guilty if you eat a piece of cake or a cookie occasionally.

Your healthy choices cheat sheet

eating well infographic

Basically, it goes like this: The foods in the circle are your ‘everyday’ foods. The foods on the bottom right of the chart are your ‘sometimes’ foods. It doesn’t mean you can’t eat them, just that you shouldn’t eat them regularly.

Three (important) foodie facts

1. Drink water. Water constitutes up to 60% of the human body, so when you feel thirsty, your hands-down best choice is water. Treat soft drinks, energy drinks and even juices as an occasional treat.

2. Don’t fear fats. Fats are part of a healthy diet. But not all fats are the same. Unsaturated fats, like those found in avocados, nuts and olive oil, should play an important part in your diet. Avoid saturated and trans-fats – found in butter, fried food, pastries and cakes – as much as possible.

3. Cut down on sugar. In 2015, the World Health Organization made a strong recommendation that adults reduce their sugar intake to less than 10% of their total daily calories. As a rough guide, this means fewer than ten teaspoons of sugar per day. Just one can of soft drink contains this amount of sugar, so you can see that you’ve got to keep a close eye on the sweet stuff.

How to change your eating habits

If you want to change your eating habits, you’ll need to have the right attitude. Here are a few tips on how to approach eating well:

  • Don’t try to change your eating habits completely right away. Make it a gradual process.

  • Start with achievable goals, like having one piece of fruit every day, or adding salad or veggies to a meal.

  • Experiment with various healthy foods and see which ones you like. The world’s greatest chefs know that ‘healthy’ food doesn’t mean ‘flavourless’ food.

  • Allow yourself occasional treats. You’re more likely to stick with eating well if you don’t feel deprived.

What can I do now?

  • Compare your current diet with the Healthy Eating chart above, and identify what you need to change.

  • Remember that no food is off-limits when maintaining a healthy diet, but that moderation is key.

  • If you’re finding it difficult to get into the habit of healthy eating, talk to your GP, who can guide you in the right direction.