Eat

Key messages:

Feed your gut the right things to feel good

Eat a rainbow of vegetables

Cut back on ultra-processed food

Reduce refined carbohydrates

Consider intermittent fasting

What you eat and how you eat it is one of the most important factors in feeling good and living your best life.

Doing these 5 things will have a positive impact on your weight and overall health and wellbeing:

  • Eat a more plant-based diet with things like vegetables, beans, pulses, herbs and spices to satisfy your appetite and improve your mood. Aim for at least 30 different ones (herbs and spices are included in this) each week. This will improve your gut bacteria, improve your mood, improve your immune system, and help control your appetite.
  • Eat the rainbow of different coloured vegetables to help you get the different nutrients you need and to improve your gut health. The bacteria that live in your gut (the gut microbiome) have a huge impact on appetite, weight gain, mood and risk of disease.
  • Reduce sugar and refined starchy food like white rice, pasta and bread to lose weight and reduce blood sugar
  • Avoid ultra processed foods like ready meals, crisps, processed meats and biscuits which are linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and depression. These are now increasingly in the news now that people are recognising the significant harm that they do and how to avoid them.
  • Try intermittent fasting. It helps reduce the risk of obesity, memory problems and some types of cancer. The easiest way to do this is to have a longer overnight fasting period and either miss breakfast or eat it late morning. There are some significant health benefits from doing this, but you must speak to your GP or nurse first if you have an existing health condition such as heart disease or diabetes.
 1.

Eat a more plant-based diet with things like vegetables, beans, pulses, herbs and spices to satisfy your appetite and improve your mood. Aim for at least 30 different ones (herbs and spices are included in this) each week. This will improve your gut bacteria, improve your mood, improve your immune system, and help control your appetite.

2.

Eat the rainbow of different coloured vegetables to help you get the different nutrients you need and to improve your gut health. The bacteria that live in your gut (the gut microbiome) have a huge impact on appetite, weight gain, mood and risk of disease.

3.

Reduce sugar and refined starchy food like white rice, pasta and bread to lose weight and reduce blood sugar

4.

Avoid ultra processed foods like ready meals, crisps, processed meats and biscuits which are linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and depression. These are now increasingly in the news now that people are recognising the significant harm that they do and how to avoid them.

5.

Try intermittent fasting. It helps reduce the risk of obesity, memory problems and some types of cancer. The easiest way to do this is to have a longer overnight fasting period and either miss breakfast or eat it late morning. There are some significant health benefits from doing this, but you must speak to your GP or nurse first if you have an existing health condition such as heart disease or diabetes.

Click on the tabs below for more information on healthy eating and ultra-processed foods:

Aim to fill half your plate with as many different coloured vegetables as possible – green, yellow, orange, red, purple. About a quarter of the plate needs to be sources of protein: oily fish, tofu, nuts and seeds are best – lean meat is better than fatty meat. Ideally no more than a quarter should be starchy carbohydrates (rice, bread, pasta, noodles, doughs like fufu and gari).

Healthy plate  - half fruit and vegetables, 1 quarter meat and others e.g. oily fish, tofu and nuts and 1 quarter brown rice, wholemeal bread etc

UPFs damage the human body and increase rates of metabolic disease, heart disease, mental illness and cancer so are worth avoiding.

What are UPFs?

Dr Chris van Tulleken is a specialist in infectious diseases at University College London and has written the book Ultra-Processed People: Why Do We All Eat Stuff That Isn’t Food … and Why Can’t We Stop? In the book he describes UPFs as:

“Processes and ingredients used to manufacture ultra-processed foods are designed to create highly profitable (low-cost ingredients, long shelf life, emphatic branding), convenient (ready-to-consume), hyperpalatable products.”

In other words, they’re designed to maximise profit and get people hooked.

Your wellbeing and health is likely to improve significantly if you cut back on UPFs and focus on having more minimally processed or processed foods (see below).

Graphic showing minimally processed foods - processing includes removal of inedible/unwanted parts.  Does not add substances to the original food.  Processed culinary ingredients - substances derived from Group 1 foods or from nature by processes including  pressing, refining, grinding, milling or drying.  Processed foods - processing of food from Group 1 or Group 2 with the addition of oil, salt or sugar by canning, pickling, smoking, curing or fermentation.  Ultra processed foods - Formulations made from a series of processes in cluding extraction and chemical modification.  Includes very little intact Group 1 foods.

How To Cut Back on Ultra Processed Foods (UPFs)

  • Cook from scratch
  • Check the labels
    • avoid products with hydrolysed proteins, soya protein isolate, gluten, casein, whey protein, mechanically separated meat, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, invert sugar, maltodextrin, dextrose, lactose, soluble or insoluble fibre, hydrogenated or interesterified oil.
  • Healthy snacks
    • fruit, nuts, seeds
  • Meal planning
  • Make your takeaways
  • Breakfast
    • if you need to eat cereals then whole grain cereals (e.g. porridge, muesli, granola) are best. Most other cereals are UPFs, as is most supermarket bread.

Cutting back on UPFs doesn’t need to cost the earth. These tips will help you:

  • Frozen vegetables and fruit are often cheaper than fresh. For fresh fruit and vegetables, try markets selling supermarket rejects (often slightly the wrong size or funny shapes) or aisle end offers which sometimes have fruit and veg approaching their sell by date.
  • Proteins – canned fish, beans, lentils (canned or dried) and eggs are relatively low cost proteins which will have a positive impact on your health. If you can buy in bulk this may be even cheaper.
  • Meal planning – planning meals and what to buy can save money through wasting less. There are some apps which can help with this and will even create a final shopping list for you.
  • Cook in bulk and freeze – if you’ve got a freezer, then bulk meal preparation can cut down on costs and save time, and make it less likely you’ll grab an unhealthy option if you finish work and feel too tired to cook.

Apps

There are a number of apps which can provide support for the changes you want to make:

 

Download the free NHS Weight Loss Plan to help you start healthier eating habits, be more active, and start losing weight.