What is a healthy diet?

  • One that has lots of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, like brown rice or pasta, and healthy sources of protein like beans or fresh chicken
  • One that is low in red and processed meat, and foods high in sugar, fat and salt
  • This page has lots of tips to help you make some healthy changes to your diet

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

  • Up your fibre intake

Eating foods high in fibre, particularly wholegrains, can reduce your risk of bowel cancer and help keep you fuller for longer. Try having wholegrain versions of bread, pasta or rice, or if reaching for a snack you could swap crisps for popcorn and.

Find out more about fibre and cancer

  • Eat less processed and red meat

Eating processed and red meat can increase the risk of cancer. Try having meat free days and using healthier proteins like 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 ‘every day foods’ and ‘occasional foods’. This isn’t about strict rules or never having unhealthy food, it’s about getting a good balance.

Everyday foods are things that we should be trying to eat every day and includes fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and healthy sources of protein such as pulses or fresh fish.

Occasional foods are things that we should have on special occasions or as a treat, 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 of different foods is important to have a healthy diet, but when the packet tells us this in grams it’s not always easy to tell if we are getting it right.

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 check your portions. Here are some examples;

  • Dried pasta or rice – 1 portion is two handfuls
  • Cooked new potatoes – 1 portion is 6 potatoes
  • Baked beans – 1 portion is half a standard 400g tin
  • Cauliflower – 1 portion is 8 florets
  • 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 two thumbs
  • Chicken breast – 1 portion is about half the size of your hand
  • Strawberries – 1 portion is 7 strawberries

British Nutrition Foundation. Find your balance get portion wise. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/attachments/article/1193/Find%20your%20balance_%20booklet.pdf. British Nutriton Foundation website 2019.

NHS. The Eatwell Guide. 2020. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/2019

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

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