How to maintain a healthy, balanced diet

Updated on 12 August 2020

Following a healthy, balanced diet as outlined in the UK’s Eatwell Guide will help you to stay well and feel your best.

As this BBC article says, "... food can be a source of comfort and connection during turbulent times" so you might be finding it harder to stick to healthy eating at the moment. Being at home all day means you have to prepare more meals rather than eating at work or school or in a café or restaurant. If you’re feeling stressed about coronavirus, you might also find that you’re turning to high-calorie, high-sugar meals and snacks.

The Good Thinking team has put together some tips to help you shop for and prepare healthy and nutritious meals at this time. In line with the official advice, you should only leave your house for essential items and you should try to do this as infrequently as possible.

Buying food

  • Write a shopping list that you update as you go along so that you can try to get everything you need in one weekly shop.
  • Plan your meals in advance – there are lots of healthy recipes available on the NHS and BBC websites. You could also download the free One You Easy Meals app.
  • Be considerate of other people and don’t buy more than you need. The supermarkets are working hard to get more supplies on the shelves so there is no need to stockpile food.
  • Look for alternatives – for example, if you can’t find fresh fruit and vegetables, go for tinned, frozen or dried equivalents. They all count towards your 5 A Day!
  • Avoid going to the supermarket when you feel hungry as you might be tempted to buy more unhealthy and non-essential foods.
  • Order your food online if you can. Be aware that delivery slots might be limited due to high demand and that most UK supermarkets are prioritising deliveries to vulnerable people. Choosing to ‘click and collect’ helps to open up delivery slots for those who are more vulnerable. If you can’t get your groceries in the usual way online, see if a local business (e.g. a café or wholesaler) is now delivering in your area.
  • If you have a vulnerable neighbour who can’t leave their house, ask if they need anything from the supermarket. You might also like to donate some food or make a financial contribution to your local food bank.
  • Stick to social distancing rules at all times while you’re shopping (there might be 2m markers at the tills or one-way aisles to help you and other shoppers). Use contactless payment whenever you can (the minimum spend has recently been increased to £45).
  • If you have hand sanitiser gel, use this when you leave the supermarket, and wash your hands thoroughly when you get home. It’s recommended that you also wash them again after unpacking your groceries.

Preparing your meals

  • Wash your hands using soap and water for at least 20 seconds before you handle any food.
  • Try to prepare balanced and nutritious meals that include plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • Stick to a daily routine of three main meals and try not to skip any of them.
  • Avoid the temptation to snack too much while you’re at home. Try to only have a couple of healthy snacks a day, such as a portion of fruit or a handful of nuts.
  • Do some batch cooking where you prepare multiple portions of the same meal that you can store or freeze for another day.
  • Stay hydrated – aim for 1.5 to 2 litres of fluids a day (e.g. water and herbal tea). Try to avoid sugary drinks and keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.
  • As you might be spending more time than normal inside at the moment, you might find it useful to take a daily supplement containing vitamin D.

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Meal time

  • Wash your hands using soap and water for at least 20 seconds before you eat.
  • Take your time and enjoy your meal – eating more slowly can help you to feel fuller and more satisfied.
  • Eat together with other members of your household if you can – this can be a great time to catch up and talk about how everyone’s feeling.
  • If you live on your own or if you’re simply missing sharing meals with friends and relatives, why not arrange a dinner date over video?
  • Make meal time an occasion – sit at the table and listen to some of your favourite music or a podcast while you eat.
  • As lockdown restrictions are eased, you might join people from other households for a meal – follow the official advice to help you all stay safe.

Useful websites

Read our articles about how to stay mentally well during self-isolation and how to manage eating disorders.