According to the World Health Organisation, nutrition is a critical part of health and development. Better nutrition is related to improved infant, child and maternal health, stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease), and longevity.
People with adequate nutrition are more productive and can create opportunities to gradually break the cycles of poverty and hunger.
Eating a balanced diet
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best.
This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
- eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day (see 5 A Day)
- base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
- have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
- eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
- choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
- drink plenty of fluids (at least 6 to 8 glasses a day)
If you're having foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar, have these less often and in small amounts.
Try to choose a variety of different foods from the 5 main food groups to get a wide range of nutrients.
The Eat Well Guide
The Eatwell Guide shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet.
You do not need to achieve this balance with every meal, but try to get the balance right over a day or even a week
Nutrition labels can help you choose between products and keep a check on the amount of foods you're eating that are high in fat, salt and added sugars.
Most pre-packed foods have a nutrition label on the back or side of the packaging.
These labels include information on energy in kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal), usually referred to as calories.
All nutrition information is provided per 100 grams and sometimes per portion of the food.
Supermarkets and food manufacturers now highlight the energy, fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt content on the front of the packaging, alongside the reference intake for each of these.
You can use nutrition labels to help you choose a more balanced diet.
How do I know if a food is high in fat, saturated fat, sugar or salt?
There are guidelines to tell you if a food is high in fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar or not.
High: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g
High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g
Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g
High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g
High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)
For example, if you're trying to cut down on saturated fat, eat fewer foods that have more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g.
Some nutrition labels on the back or side of packaging also provide information about reference intakes.
Red, amber and green colour coding
Some front-of-pack nutrition labels use red, amber and green colour coding.
Colour-coded nutritional information tells you at a glance if the food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt:
- red means high
- amber means medium
- green means low
In short, the more green on the label, the healthier the choice. If you buy a food that has all or mostly green on the label, you know straight away that it's a healthier choice.
Amber means neither high nor low, so you can eat foods with all or mostly amber on the label most of the time.
But any red on the label means the food is high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugars, and these are the foods we should cut down on.
Try to eat these foods less often and in small amounts.