Healthy eating

In the short-term, eating well help you to feel good, look your best and help manage weight. In the long term a healthy, balanced diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers.

The evidence is that a healthy diet and lifestyle can prevent 30% of cancers and 80% of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Overhauling your eating habits can be daunting. We recommend making a start with small changes so you ease into a healthier routine over time.

Choose one thing to change about your eating habits and set goals. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

Prepare or choose meals with servings of vegetables, fruit or salad, as a diet low in fruit and vegetables increases your risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Most people don’t include enough of these food types in their diets. Try to eat 5 to 7 servings a day. One easy way to achieve this goal is to make sure that half your lunch and dinner plate is salad, fruit or vegetable.

Order a free copy of the Food for Life booklet here. It contains information on the types of food and drink that form a healthy diet. It also looks at how much of these foods and drinks are good to eat. The booklet also features the food pyramid. This is a visual guide to the different foods and drinks that form a healthy diet. The most important foods to eat are at the bottom of the pyramid. Find more information on the food pyramid including factsheets and meal plans here.

Grill and steam your food. This is much healthier than frying or roasting with oil or fat. Cutting out rich sauces and dressings is another way to make your meals better for you.

Be mindful of your surroundings when you eat. When you eat in front of a screen, like your computer or the television, you tend to eat more without realising it. Taking the time to sit at a table means you’re more aware of how much you are eating and reduces the likelihood of overeating.

Using a smaller plate or bowl is one of the easiest ways to manage your portion size and make sure you’re not overeating.

Aim to fill half your plate with fruit, vegetables or salad. Then make sure one-quarter of the plate is made up of wholemeal cereals, potatoes, pasta or rice. The remaining quarter should contain some protein such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans or nuts.

When out and about, choose the regular or small size. While it may only be 50c extra for the large, it’s extra calories you don’t need.

Plan your meals in advance. Take some time before a new week starts to plan and prepare lunches and other meals. We have some recipe ideas here

The following tips are small changes to start your eating habits that really will make a difference to your health.

Try going meat-free one day a week. Uses beans or pulses instead of chicken or beef in stews. For some meal ideas click here.

Eat less sugar at breakfast. Swap a pastry or sugary cereal for wholemeal options or porridge.

Drink water instead of sugary or diet soft drinks.

Limit chips and takeaway foods as much as possible. Most are high in fat, salt and calories.

When shopping choose not to buy biscuits, chocolates, crisps or sugary drinks. If they are not in the cupboard, you won’t be tempted to snack on them.

Use fresh food where possible. Packaged food might be useful when on the go, but can often be high in sugar, salt or fat. Having an apple or banana in your bag or car is usually a much healthier option.

It can be difficult to stick to new healthy eating choices. Making the changes as a family can make it easier. Why not suggest your family join you? Get support at work by asking a co-worker to join you. Or you could suggest starting a workplace challenge such as replacing certain snack options with fruit.

Motivate yourself with small rewards. If you give up having sugary hot beverage every day, put that money aside in a change jar. You could save €40 a month and put this towards a fun activity.

Overall, be patient with and kind to yourself. It takes time to build new habits. If you have a slip-up, start again with the healthy habit the following day. You will soon realise benefits of feeling good and having more energy.

These simple meal ideas are simple, full of flavour and healthy.

Baked garlic lime chicken breasts

Chicken is a low fat, lean meat that can be used in many dishes.

Chickpea and lentil curry

Feel like a takeaway without the guilt? Try this quick, tasty and super healthy curry!

Pesto pasta

Lovely served hot or cold, this quick and easy pasta dish is tasty and only takes minutes to prepare.

Get more recipe ideas on the Safe Food website.

Content provided by NHS Choices www.nhs.uk and adapted for Ireland by the Health A-Z.

Browse Health A-Z