Table 2

 Summary of guidelines for achieving a healthy, balanced diet in adults, based on current UK, American, and international dietary recommendations11 12 w20 w21 w23-w25

Foods and nutrientsHow best to do itReason
Calorie (energy) intakeControl calorie intake to maintain appropriate energy balance and BMI. Aim to maintain a BMI of <25 by eating “low energy dense foods” Too much energy intake compared with expenditure leads to obesity
Protein and red meatEat protein rich foods from different vegetable and animal sources (lean meat, fish, eggs, beans, soya products, unsalted nuts, and seeds). Ensure adequate protein intake (0.75 per kg a day) if aged >50 years. Balance protein foods with fruit and vegetables at meals. If you are consuming more than 90 g red and processed meat a day, consider reducing consumptionAdequate protein intake may slow loss of muscle mass and prevent onset of sarcopenia. Red and processed meat is associated with probable increased risk of colorectal cancer
Calcium rich foodsEat low fat dairy products, nuts and seeds, dark green vegetables, tofu, and tinned fishTo maintain bone density and reduce risk of osteoporosis
Fruit and vegetables a dayEat at least five portions a day. Eat a variety of fruits and (non-starchy) vegetables covering a range of colours (fresh, frozen, and tinned can be used)To reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and probable decrease in risk of certain cancers
Fibre and whole grain foodsTry to eat more whole grains and foods containing fibre, and limit refined grains (whole grains with the outer fibre layer removed). For starchy foods (e.g. rice, pasta, and bread) eat whole grain varieties when you can. Aim for 18 g fibre a dayTo maintain bowel function and prevent constipation
SaltLimit salt intake to 6 g a day. Limit consumption of salty foods. Do not add salt at table. Read food labelsA high salt intake is a risk factor for hypertension, heart disease, and stroke
FishEat at least one portion of oily fish a weekTo reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
Fat and sugar Consume minimal amounts of foods containing saturated fats and sugars, and limit added sugars (fizzy drinks, confectionery, cakes, pies, biscuits, table sugar). Aim for ≤35% energy from fat and <11% energy from added sugarsTo reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and the likelihood of eating a high calorie diet
Saturated and trans fatsLimit foods that contain saturated fats and trans fats by avoiding foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils, and limit solid fat intake, high fat meats, and high fat dairy productsTo reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
Vitamin B12Eat foods containing vitamin B12 (such as meats, yeast extracts, or those that are fortified, such as fortified breakfast cereals)To prevent vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia
Alcoholic drinksConsume alcohol in moderate amounts and within or lower than the government guidelines (that is, no more than 3-4 units a day for men and no more than 2-3 units a day for women)To reduce the risk of liver disease and certain cancers. Alcohol provides additional calories that contribute to obesity

BMI= body mass index (weight (kg)/ height (m)2).