Eating well

Eating a varied balanced diet and being active will help you stay fit and healthy so you can live life to the full and reduce the risks of ill health.  Eating plays an important, enjoyable and social part of all our lives. As we get older the need for protein, vitamins and minerals remains the same but energy requirements can decline with age if you become less active.  Food choices should still be nutritious but you may need smaller portion sizes.

Try to eat a wide variety of foods as no single food provides all the nutrients we need.  The types and proportions of food we need to have a healthy and well balanced diet are:

Bread, rice potatoes, pasta & other starchy foods - These are an important part of a healthy diet and should make up about a third of the food we eat.

Fruit and vegetables - Aim for at least five portions per day.

Protein foods – meat, fish/eggs/poultry/lentils/beans/peas/tofu/quorn – try to have at two meals daily.   Choose lean cuts of meat or remove excess fat and remove the skin from chicken. Avoid frying where possible. Try to include two portions of fish each week, one of which should be an oily fish, for example: mackerel, trout, sardines, kippers or fresh tuna.

Milk and dairy foods - These are good sources of protein and vitamins and they’re also an important source of calcium which helps to keep our bones strong. Try to choose reduced fat versions where you can – for example semi-skimmed milk, low fat yoghurt, cottage cheese and half fat Cheddar cheese or Edam.

Food and drinks high in fat and/or sugar -
Try to take just a small amount of foods and drinks high in fat/sugar.

Use the Eatwell Plate to help you get the balance right.  It shows how much of what you eat should come from each food group.

Key messages

  • Have three regular meals, don’t skip breakfast!
  • Base meals on starchy food, they are a good source of energy and vitamins try to choose more whole grains
  • Include some fruit/veg at each meal and use fruit as a snack between meals
  • Include milk and dairy foods each day
  • Eat some meat fish eggs beans or alternatives eg at 2 meals daily – red   meat is an excellent source of iron
  • Try to eat oily fish once a week. It is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which can help keep our hearts healthy.
  • Eat less salt – too much salt can increase blood pressure
  • Eat less saturated fat as it can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood. Saturated fat is found in cakes pastries, chocolate, biscuits, fatty processed meat, sausage rolls, burgers, butter, cream and cheese.
  • Try to drink at least 6-8 glasses fluids (about 1.5 litres a day) eg water, milk, fruit squash/juice tea/coffee, soup and limit fizzy drinks.  Drink enough to prevent constipation and dehydration.
  • Try to keep to a healthy weight as being very overweight can increase the risk of developing type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and problems with joints affecting mobility. Know your weight for your height (BMI).

Keep a store cupboard

It is a good idea to have an emergency store cupboard for times when you are unable to get to the shops. It is also a good starting point for easy and cheap cooking. A list of some foods is given below as a guideline. Most of these foods have a long shelf life.

Milk – long-life milk, evaporated or dried milk and canned milky puddings

Meat and fish – cans of corned beef, stewed meat, sardines, salmon and tuna

Fruit and Vegetables – canned or frozen - tinned vegetable soup, beans, dried lentils, peas, soup mix, instant mash potato

Drinks – tea, coffee, cocoa, malted milk, instant soups

Cereals – breakfast cereals, crackers, crisp bread, oatcakes, rice, pasta and biscuits.

Other – stock cubes, gravy, honey, jam, marmalade

Useful links
Northern Trust recipe book: Tasty cooking for small numbers
Choose To Live Better








Page last updated:04 February 2013