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A healthy, balanced diet

What is a healthy balanced diet?

The key to a healthy eating is having a balance of different foods and nutrients in your diet.


In the UK, the healthy eating model is called the Eatwell Guide.


There are a range of different types of eating (e.g. vegan and vegetarian) but the key principles of a healthy dietary pattern should run through all of these.

The six principles of healthy eating

Although there is no ‘one size fits all’ healthy diet, there are six principles we recommend.

At least 5 A DAY

Remember to include at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.


Include plenty of fibre-rich foods, especially wholegrains.


Include a range of protein foods, especially beans, peas & lentils.

Dairy and alternatives

Include some dairy foods or fortified alternatives.

Choose the right fats

Mainly unsaturated fats and oils.


Eat fewer foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugars.

Key facts about healthy, balanced diets

  • Fruit and vegetables are a key part of a healthy diet, and we should aim to get our 5 A DAY.
  • Starchy foods like bread, potatoes, pasta, rice and other grains are part of a healthy diet, but the quality of what we choose is important.
  • Plant-based protein foods, like beans and lentils, are naturally low in saturated fat and are sources of protein and fibre. We should aim to include these regularly in the diet.
  • Animal protein foods like fish, eggs, meat and dairy provide a range of vitamins and minerals.
  • Dairy foods provide protein, calcium, B vitamins and iodine.If choosing plant-based dairy alternatives, then look for those that are fortified with calcium and ideally other vitamins and minerals.

Healthy Diet FAQs

As well as thinking about how what we eat affects our health, it’s also good to consider how it affects the planet. The good news is that healthier diets also tend to be more environmentally sustainable.

There are a whole range of other popular diets such as keto, paleo or raw food diets, some of which claim to have specific effects on health or to help with weight loss. However, those diets which do not follow the healthy eating principles are typically harder to stick to and may be detrimental to your overall health in the longer term.


To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit in your diet. That means you need to burn more calories than you consume. To learn more about how to lose weight healthily read our page on healthy weight loss here.

Last reviewed October 2023. Next review due October 2026.

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Please note that advice provided on our website about nutrition and health is general in nature. We do not provide any individualised advice on prevention, treatment and management for patients or their family members.