What is a healthy diet?

  • On this page you can find tips to help you make healthy changes to what you usually eat or drink (your diet)
  • A healthy diet has lots of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, like brown rice or brown pasta, and healthy sources of protein like beans or fresh chicken
  • A healthy diet is low in processed and red meat, and foods high in sugar, fat and salt

What should my plate look like?

When thinking about eating healthily, a good place to start is how much space each of these things takes up on your plate.

  • Eat more fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are the main parts of a healthy diet, so they are a good place to start. When serving a meal, start with veggies and salad and aim for this to fill at least half of your plate.

  • Up your fibre intake

Having a diet with lots of foods high in fibre, particularly wholegrains, can reduce your risk of bowel cancer and help keep you feeling fuller for longer. Try having wholegrain versions of your usual carbs, like wholegrain bread, brown pasta or brown rice. And if you’re reaching for a snack you could swap crisps for plain popcorn.

Find out more about fibre and cancer

  • Eat less processed and red meat

Eating processed and red meat can increase the risk of bowel cancer. Have more meat free days and swap to healthier proteins. Try using pulses, including lentils and beans, fresh chicken or fresh fish in the place of meat in your favourite dishes.

Find out more about processed and red meat and cancer


Everyday and occasional foods

One way to think about a healthy diet is with ‘everyday foods’ and ‘occasional foods’. This isn’t about strict rules or never having any less healthy foods, it’s about getting a good balance.

Foods that we should be trying to eat every day and make up most of what we eat include:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Wholegrains
  • Healthy sources of protein such as pulses or fresh fish.

Occasional foods are things that we can enjoy every now and then but shouldn’t make up a big part of our everyday diet. These foods might be slightly different for everyone but are things like cake, chocolate, biscuits and crisps.

What is a portion?

Knowing the right portion size for different foods is important to have a healthy diet. But this isn’t always clear when the packet tells us the portion size in grams.

To save you getting out the scales every time you’re cooking, the British Nutrition Foundation have put together a guide for practical and easy ways to get your portions right. 

Here are some examples:

  • Dried pasta or rice – 1 portion is 2 handfuls
  • Potatoes – 1 portion is about the size of your fist
  • Baked beans – 1 portion is half a standard 400g tin
  • Carrots, peas or sweetcorn – 1 portion is 3 heaped serving spoons
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds – 1 portion is the amount that fits in your palm
  • Hard cheese (e.g. cheddar) – 1 portion is the size of 2 thumbs
  • Chicken (boneless and skinless) – 1 portion is about half the size of your hand
  • Apple – 1 portion is 1 apple


British Nutrition Foundation. Find your balance get portion-wise. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/attachments/article/1193/Find%20your%20balance_%20booklet.pdf

NHS. The Eatwell Guide. 2020.https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/.  

World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) Third Expert Report https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer

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