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General information

Most people know they need a balanced diet to get through their very busy lives, but not everyone knows what that really means. Different types of food provide different types of nutrients, and getting a balance should become a way of life. In the meantime here’s some guidance.

The main way to eat healthily is to have a well balanced diet. This doesn't mean only eating piles of all-bran all day, but having a bit of everything to make sure you have all the right nutrients in your diet.

As a basic rule you need a mixture of the following items every day:

Bread, cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes
These foods are all a good source of carbohydrates which is important for energy. Starchy foods such as bread, cereals and potatoes should form the main part of your meals.

Fruit and vegetables
You should try and have at least 5 servings of these a day, don't just have 5 of the same thing though pick 5 different items for a range of vitamins and minerals.

Milk and dairy foods
Dairy products are a good source of protein, calcium and vitamins A, D and B12. However they can be high in fat so try to eat lower fat versions such as semi-skimmed milk.

Meat and Fish or meat substitutes
These are a good source of protein, B vitamins and minerals. To avoid having too much fat though, use lower fat and lean meats. If you are a vegetarian, substitute meats with beans, lentils and nuts or vegetable protein foods,

Foods containing fat
You still need a small amount of fat for a healthy diet although most of us each much more than we need. When buying products like butter margerine and cooking oils try to use lower fat versions.

Foods containing sugar
Like biscuits, cakes, sweets, or fizzy drinks are all high in sugar and shouldn't be eaten too often.

10 tips

1. Eat a variety of nutrient rich foods. You need to eat many different foods to gain all the essential nutrients as no one food contains all of them.

2. Eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

3. Drink plenty of water through the day, try replacing some coffees or teas with plain water - its very refreshing, and extremely good for your digestive system - not to mention your skin!

4. Eat regular meals. If you skip meals you'll be more likely to fill up on junk food later.

5. Eat moderate portions. Don't force yourself to eat if you're full up, but don't starve yourself either.

6. Balance your food choices. If you have a food that is high in salt or fat balance it with one lower in these ingredients later in the day.

7. Reduce, don't eliminate foods. If your favourite food is high in fat just try to eat less of it or try and find a lower fat aternative.

8. Study your eating habits, think through what you eat in a week and work out where you are lacking or what items you should cut back on.

9. Make changes to your eating habits gradually. If you change too quickly you will probably find yourself craving foods you miss and won't stick to your new diet.

10. Maintain a healthy weight, if you're too heavy or too light you can be at risk of health problems and illnesses.