A dad and his child smiling whilst holding an apple and sitting next to a table full of vegetables.

The benefits of healthy eating

What is healthy eating?

Healthy eating is not:

  • a weight-loss diet
  • a temporary fix
  • something we do to punish ourselves after over-indulging.

Healthy eating is:

  • fuelling our bodies in the way they were designed.

You’ve probably heard the analogy about healthy food being like putting the correct petrol in your car, ensuring it runs properly. It’s true – your body is like an (incredibly complex) machine which needs the right fuel in order to perform at its best.

A healthy diet includes a balance of:

  • protein
  • carbohydrates
  • fat

These are known as the macronutrients. Enough of these, along with enough fibre and fluids, will leave you satisfied.

It’s important to know that you can eat heartily while also eating healthily. You don’t have to eat steamed kale with every meal. Jacket potatoes, pasta, bread, coffee and even chocolate all have their places in a healthy, balanced diet.

Along with the macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fat – you need micronutrients, too. These include vitamins and minerals such as: 1
  • iron
  • cobalt
  • chromium
  • copper
  • iodine
  • manganese
  • selenium
  • zinc
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin K
  • B vitamins, including folate
Macronutrients are ‘macro’ because they make up most of a healthy diet – your daily calories coming from carbohydrates (including beans, legumes and wholegrains), fats and protein. Micronutrients are ‘micro’ because we need less of them. 2

Why eating healthy is important? 

There are plenty of reasons to follow a healthy diet. Even better, it doesn’t take long before you start to feel some of the benefits:

  1. It is important part of maintaining good health

Eating at least 5 portions of different fruit and vegetables each day and following a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of certain diseases. 3
  1. You’ll have more energy

Certain vitamins and minerals – including B vitamins, iron, and magnesium – have a key role in energy-yielding metabolism. 4

Eating a healthy diet ensures you get enough of these nutrients, as well as steady sources of the energy-providing macronutrients like protein, fats and complex carbohydrates – without relying on sugar as a quick energy source.

  1. It can help you to maintain you weight

Following a healthy and balanced diet can help you to maintain a healthy weight for your height and body type.

  1. Feel more in control

Grabbing fast food instead of waiting a little longer for home-cooked meal or indulging in a late-night snack because you’re craving sugar at bedtime is fine every now and then, but as a regular habit can make you feel out of control.

An understanding of nutrition and the discipline to eat the foods which nourish your body and mind makes you feel like you’re the boss – not cravings.

  1. You might feel better as you age

Even if later life seems a long way off, it’s so important to invest in yourself now. Who doesn’t want to stay energetic, fit and well long after you’ve retired?

We might not prioritise calcium in our diets. However, calcium stores in the body are vital to help slow bone loss (osteoporosis) associated with getting older. 5

So, if you want to be one of those older people who plays sport, travels the world and keeps up with the grandkids, invest in your diet now.

  1. Improve your cooking skills

Being able to produce tasty, nutritious food is an invaluable life skill. Knowing you can knock up a decent dinner or tasty snack with what’s in the cupboard helps stop you stressing about mealtimes.

Whether you want saving your family money, eat fresher food, learn about ingredients and flavours or simply not having to rely on convenience foods – there’s no downsides to learning to cook, only benefits.

  1. Good example for family

According to CBeebies, kids who cook develop maths and coordination skills and are more likely to be adventurous eaters. 6

Cooking also helps teach healthy eating habits and healthy eating facts, as well as the history and geography of different dishes.

10 healthy foods to include in your diet

Remember, there is no such thing as ‘best’ or ‘healthiest food’.

Balance is the key here, and your main goal should be to incorporate a wide variety of healthy foods in your diet, because they provide us with different combination of nutrients.

Here are some nutrient-packed foods to eat every day:

  1. Red peppers

The intense red colour of these fruits gives a clue as to how much antioxidant they contain. There is  around 23 calories in one small red pepper, while boasting an incredible 157% 7  of your daily vitamin C and nearly half your daily requirement of vitamin A.
  1. Spinach 

It might be hard to get too excited about spinach, but if you’re looking for healthy foods then you should make room on your plate for spinach.

Alongside vitamins K, A, C and B, spinach also contains phytonutrients such as chlorophyll. 8
  1. Raspberries 

These jewel-like fruits taste sour or sweet depending on when they’re harvested. With only 25 calories per 100g, raspberries contain vitamin C ad antioxidants. They also contain vitamin A, vitamin B6, calcium and zinc. 9

Buying them frozen is an inexpensive option. Throw them in porridge as its being cooked – or use in overnight oats, smoothies or chia bowls for a cooling breakfast.

  1. Kiwi 

Containing more vitamin C than oranges, kiwi also contains the antioxidant vitamin E.  Kiwi fruit also contains vitamin K, which contributes to the maintenance of normal bones. 10
  1. Avocado 

High in monounsaturated fat and vitamin E.

They also contain good amounts of potassium (more than bananas), iron, copper, and folate. 11
  1. Sweet potato 

Containing fibre, calcium and selenium as well as vitamins B and C.

Sweet potatoes also contain beta-carotene, which we convert to vitamin A. Sweet potato peel contain antioxidants, so scrub, don’t peel! 12
  1. Broccoli

Forget the flabby, boiled broccoli of your school dinners. Blanched, sautéed, grilled or roasted, broccoli is a great carrier for herbs and spices in a range of dishes, including Italian and East Asian cuisine.

With just 2 ‘trees’ counting as 1 portion of vegetables, broccoli also contains iron, potassium, calcium, selenium and magnesium and vitamins A, C, E and K. 13
  1. Chia seeds

These tiny seeds contain protein, fibre and omega-3 fats. Further, when liquid is added, chia seeds form a gel-like substance. 14

Perfect sprinkled in porridge or overnight oats. 

  1. Quinoa 

It contains fibre and minerals calcium, magnesium and manganese. 15

Technically a seed, quinoa behaves like a grain and replaces pasta, rice, couscous and bulgur in countless recipes.

Food swaps – 5 tips 

Finding alternatives to your favourites isn’t just about finding a lower-calorie option. The amounts of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals in your food should also play a role in our choices – not to mention whether it will actually satisfy your craving!

The psychological side of food is one that you can’t ignore when trying to change your diet for the better. This is why we’d never suggest steamed broccoli when you get a chocolate craving.

We also crave certain textures and sensations when we eat, for example chomping brittle, noisy crisps make us feel better than eating soft ones. 16

  1. food: sweets

Swap: dried fruit

Dried fruit can be just as sweet as candy, but dried fruit also comes with minerals like iron and calcium.

  1. food: crisps

Swap: popcorn

Try popcorn or seaweed sheets to recreate that satisfying crunch.

  1. food: biscuits

Swap: oat bars

Biscuits usually don’t contain much protein or fibre, meaning it’s easy to gobble down half a packet without feeling full. Make your own healthier alternative with that sweet chewy texture you love.

  1. food: chocolate muffin

Swap: mug cake

Make a gooey, indulgent mug cake using a scoop of chocolate-flavoured whey protein powder, an egg and a splash of your choice of milk. Mix together and microwave the mug for 60 seconds.

  1. food: ice cream

Swap: frozen yoghurt

Cold, creamy and the flavour you love. Frozen yoghurt ticks all the boxes when it comes to ice cream cravings.

Food swaps nutrition 17

Calories Fat Sugar Protein Carbohydrates Vitamins and minerals?
Milk chocolate (100g) 18 556kcal 32g 48g 6g 60g 100g contains 10% of daily iron
Dried figs (100g) 19 249kcal 0.9g 47.9g 3.3g 63.9g Contains calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese and copper
Salted crisps (30g bag) 20 154kcal 9g 0.1g 1.7g 15.5g Small amounts of vitamin C and vitamin B6
Popcorn (30g) 21 116kcal 1.4g 0.3g 3.9g 23.3g Small amounts of iron and potassium
Biscuits (3 x chocolate digestives) 22 252kcal 12.3g 15g 3.6g 33.9g Traces
Oat bar x 1* 276kcal 13.4g 15.5g 18.6g 29g Magnesium, zinc, selenium, iron, manganese, vitamins A, B, C and E.
Chocolate muffin x 1 23 442kcal 20g 28g 7.1g 63g 16% of your daily iron
Chocolate protein mug cake x 1 24 218kcal 7g 1.6g 30g 1.6g Contains calcium, potassium and protein.
Ice cream (150g) 25 215kcal 7.7g 24.6g 3.1g 33.8g Contains a little calcium and vitamin A
Frozen yoghurt 26 127kcal 3.6g 20g 3g 22g Contains a little vitamin A, calcium and iron
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Last Updated: 14th January 2021