A healthy diet can give you the right kind of food to help you grow, have energy and be happy.
What is a healthy diet?
A healthy, balanced diet includes different types of food, like:
- Plenty of fruit or vegetables
- Some starchy food, like bread, pasta and cereals (wholemeal and wholegrain are better)
- A smaller quantity of protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils
- Some dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt.
Different people need different amounts of food, and what works for some people won't work for others. The important thing is to find what works for you.
Crucial: Can't afford to eat? Every year, some people find themselves stretched by changes to benefits, sudden unemployment or other crises in their lives. Your local foodbank can help, but you will need to be referred. Your GP, the Citizens Advice Bureau, or another organisation can explain how it works and refer you, or you can find out more from the Food Access Services in Oxford. In Abingdon, Wantage and Didcot, foodbanks are run by local churches; wherever you are in Oxfordshire, you can can get help.
Too much sugar?
Eating too much sugar can lead to health problems right away (like tooth decay) and in the future (like diabetes). But do you know how much sugar you eat? Or how you can make sure it's not too much?
In this video young people from Rose Hill talk about young people's health and sugar:
What about fizzy drinks?
Fizzy drinks can contain lots of sugar, watch this video to learn about other options:
Tips for better eating
Part of growing up is learning how much food you need. It's different for everyone, and there are no rules that will work for everyone, all of the time. But many people find these tips are useful:
- Eat five different portions of fruit or veg a day: a portion is about as much as you can easily fit into your hand.
- Base your meals on starchy foods: examples are pasta, rice, potatoes and bread. Try to vary what you eat and go for wholemeal options if you can.
- Make sure you get some protein every day: nuts, beans, lentils, eggs, cheese, fish and meat are all good sources of protein.
- Cut down on saturated fats and sugar: we need some fats and sugars in our diet, but most of us eat more than we need.
- Limit the amount of foods you eat with added sugar like fizzy drinks, processed snacks, crisps, cakes, and takeaways.
- Eat less salt: some salt is important in your diet, especially if you are active in hot weather. But too much salt is bad for blood pressure.
- Drink plenty of water and not too much caffeine or alcohol: we need the equivalent of 6 to 8 glasses of water to avoid dehydration.
- Avoid snacking and don't skip breakfast: many people find eating a low-fat, wholegrain breakfast helps them get through the day without snacking.
The Government has produced the Eatwell Guide to help you make good choices about food. For more information and to download a large version, click here.
Eating too much… or too little
Eating too much of the wrong things can make you unhealthy. But so can eating too little, dieting, and obsessing about food. People come in lots of different shapes and sizes, and most of us can cope with overeating occasionally.
When you overeat all or most of the time, you run the risk of becoming overweight or even obese. Obesity can cause health problems:
- Emotional stress and anxiety
- A greater strain on joints
- A raised risk of life-threatening diseases like some cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease
When you eat too little all or most of the time, you run the risk of becoming underweight. Being underweight can cause health problems:
- Lack of energy
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Weakened immune system
- If you're female, delayed or interrupted periods
Eating disorders can cause a person to be underweight or overweight. If you are concerned about your eating, talk to an adult you trust, such as a parent, carer, your school health nurse, or your GP.