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Healthy eating tips - ideas for meal times

Wholegrain cereal, a glass of juice and wholemeal bread are healthy breakfast choices. You can reduce your risk of several cancers by eating a healthy, balanced diet that is high in fruit, vegetables and fibre, and low in red and processed meat, and salt.

On this page, you can find some top ideas for healthy meals. Follow these simple steps to make sure you eat healthy, balanced meals throughout the day.

Change4Life has also launched a campaign to help families prepare healthier meals quickly and cheaply. The Supermeals campaign offers money off healthy ingredients, such as fruit and veg and low fat yoghurts, across over a thousand supermarket stores in England. Check out the Supermeals zone for low-cost recipes, healthy eating tips, super deals and more.

Breakfast

Choose wholegrain breakfast cereals to boost your fibre intake.

  • Choose whole-grain breakfast cereals to boost your fibre intake. But try to avoid those that are high in salt and sugar.
  • Use skimmed or semi-skimmed milk with your cereal, and try topping it with sliced banana, apple or dry fruit.
  • Add a glass of fresh, unsweetened fruit juice to your normal breakfast plan. A small glass of juice can count towards your five daily fruit and vegetable portions. But remember that fresh fruit contains more fibre.
  • For a healthier English breakfast, scramble or poach your eggs and add portions of tomatoes, mushrooms and baked beans.
  • Use whole-meal or whole-grain bread for your toast and choose a low-fat spread.
  • Mushrooms can count towards your five daily portions and are naturally low in fat. However, they also absorb a lot of oil when fried, so just use tiny bits of oil or grill them instead.

* Snacks

  • Snacking need not be unhealthy. Ditch the fatty crisps, chocolate or biscuits - they are very high in fat and calories. Instead try some portions of fresh fruit, tinned fruit in natural juice, dried fruit or strips of raw vegetables, like carrots, cucumber or peppers. Having a banana instead of a chocolate bar could save you 225 calories. Our Five a day page has information on what counts as a portion.
  • Drink a delicious home-made fruit smoothie - they can count as a portion of fruit and vegetables a day. But be careful of shop varieties, which can have added milk, yogurt or sugar.
  • Healthy savoury snacks include whole-meal scones, oat cakes, crackers, rice cakes, crumpets, muffins or slices of toast. All are suitable with a low-fat spread. Or try some breadsticks with a cup of low-calorie soup.
  • Sweeter healthy snacks include low fat yogurts (under 100 calories a pot) or fromage frais, a small bowl of whole-grain cereal with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, a small slice of malt loaf or a fruit scone.
  • Remember that healthier snacks are more likely to satisfy your hunger, as well as being lower in calories and more nutritious.

Lunch

Low fat toppings and fillings will help to make your lunches healthier.

  • If you’re having a jacket potato, choose low fat coleslaw, baked beans, or tuna canned in water as your topping.
  • Choose a sandwich made from whole-meal bread for some extra fibre. For fillings, try tuna or chicken, and add fresh vegetables, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce or any other fresh salad option.
  • An omelette is quick and easy. Mushrooms, pepper, onions and tomatoes can all be added.
  • Make a layered or pasta salad with your favourite vegetables, add sweet corn, grated carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach leaves and avocadoes - eat and enjoy!
  • Your favourite vegetable soup makes a cheap and quick lunch option and allows you to incorporate an extra serving of vegetables into your diet. Try making one at home or choose a canned variety that’s lower in salt.
  • Have a piece of fruit after your lunch.

Dinner

Read our tips for cooking a healthy, balanced dinner.

  • Stir-Fry is the ultimate fast food, but be careful about the amount of oil you use. Mix and match the following vegetables, protein sources and flavourings for endless combinations.
    • Suitable vegetables include: onions, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, peas, sweetcorn, bok choi, baby sweetcorn, mange tout, green beans, mushrooms, courgette, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, green/ red/ yellow/ orange pepper (or any others that you can think of!).
    • You could add chopped chicken breast (without skin), prawns or tofu.
    • To add flavour, add one or a mixture of the following with the vegetables at the beginning: chopped root ginger, dried coriander, a little soy sauce, garlic, chopped green chilli. You can also try stirring in fresh coriander at the end of cooking and sprinkling on sesame seeds before serving.
  • Try veggie versions of your favourite flavourful dishes like lasagne, curries or pizza. But be careful - vegetarian food can also be high in salt and fat.
  • Meat is a good source of protein but try to use more white meat or fish, rather than red or processed meat. If you do eat red meat, choose leaner cuts that are lower in fat.
  • Add lentils, beans or pulses to stews, soups and casseroles.
  • Instead of greasy chips, try thick-cut ones or baked potato wedges. Or even better, have new boiled potatoes.
  • Try using more fish in your recipes. Oily fish like sardines, salmon or trout are particularly good for you. Try to bake or poach your fish instead, instead of having them deep-fried in batter.

More tips

Our Ten Top Tips page has more advice on reaching a healthy body weight through healthy eating and physical activity. Ten Top Tips is a programme for weight loss through lifestyle changes that you can fit into your daily routine.

You can also find more healthy meal ideas in Weight Concern’s Healthier Cooking Tips section.

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Updated: 8 February 2012