Eating a varied, balanced diet and taking regular exercise helps support long-term health

Eating well and being active are two crucial lifestyle factors that you can control both for yourself and your family. By making positive informed choices around diet and activity you can greatly improve and maintain a healthy you!

Eating a varied, balanced diet and taking part in regular exercise helps support long-term health, and can significantly reduce your risk of illness and disease. Many of the most widespread diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke have all been linked to poor diet and lack of exercise.

Healthy eating

There are five main food groups which need to be incorporated into a balanced diet. The NHS shows this visually on their eat well guide.

The size of each section shows how much of each food group contributes to a healthy diet:

  • 1/3 carbohydrates
  • 1/3 fruit or vegetables
  • 1/3 combined total of milk, dairy food, meat, fish, eggs, beans and fatty and sugary foods – the latter is by far the smallest section

The eatwell plate is based on average adult, and offers guidance only. Individuals may need slightly different nutritional needs dependent on their lifestyle and health status.

  • fruit & vegetables – provide essential vitamins, minerals, fibre and some iron which helps our immune system, eye-sight, hair/skin and keeps our digestive system healthy
  • bread, rice, pasta and potatoes (carbohydrates) are essential for providing our bodies with the energy they need to function, plus they also provide some fibre (especially the wholemeal varieties), vitamins/minerals and iron
  • milk & dairy foods – provide good sources of calcium, some protein and key vitamins/mineral which are essential for developing strong teeth and bones
  • meat, fish, eggs & beans – provide good source of protein and iron which is needed for growth and repair within our bodies, plus helps keep blood healthy
  • fatty & sugary foods – our bodies only require a small amount of these foods, but good fats (such as unsaturated fats, oily fish, omega 3 & 6) are essential for our brain function

Being active

Being physically active can help you to achieve a healthy weight  and brings a range of other important health benefits. It improves physical health (muscles, bones, heart/cardio vascular system) and ultimately can help reduce the risk of many diseases/illness such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis.

Physical activity also helps with:

  • de-stressing as feel good hormones are released
  • promotes good sleeping patterns
  • building social support networks

Adults should be aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, which can be split into shorter sessions, but must be at least 10 minutes in length.

Follow the link for more information on getting active

Older adults

As you get older it is just as important to eat a well balanced diet and remain physically active as this helps to support independence and general health.

Your dietary needs may alter slightly as you get older – if you are involved in less physically demanding activities you may not need quite as much high energy food.

However, it’s important to remain eating a healthy, balanced diet so your body gets all the nutrients it needs to function properly, and it’s vital that you remain active because if you stop moving, it’s much harder to start again. The main thing is enjoyment and ability to remain independent to socialise with friends and family – vital for quality of life.

Eating a healthy diet and being physically active can help you enjoy life independently for as long as possible and also reduces risks of diseases and illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia.

As you get older, it is equally important to look after your body through what you intake (food) and what you do (activity) to ensure you get the best out of life.