Most of us know the main principles of a healthy diet - getting a good balance of the food groups, eating plenty of fruit and veg, keeping topped up on water. But sometimes getting the principles into practice is a bit of a chore - and coming up with healthy meal ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner on a daily basis can zap your healthy eating inspiration.
The perfect, healthy breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you can, take time out to really enjoy it — it's a great way to start the day. If you need an incentive to get out of bed that bit earlier, remember that people who eat breakfast tend to be slimmer than those who don't. Investing some time for breakfast in the morning will kick-start your metabolism and stop you snacking mid-morning. Set the table the night before and make it look appealing if that helps — and most of the ideas below will only take 10 minutes to prepare, so lack of time is no excuse.
- Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, chopped tomato and basil
- Boiled egg and wholemeal toast
- Wholemeal toast and peanut butter or marmite/vegemite
- Hot or cold fruit with low-fat yogurt
- Porridge with stewed fruit (for example, apple and raisin or rhubarb)
- Kedgeree (make the night before)
- Cereal with skimmed milk
- Fruit juice, fruit smoothies, herbal or black tea, one cup of coffee
The perfect, healthy lunch
Lunch is probably the hardest meal to get right. Too often we end up grabbing something on the go and not taking the time to really savor it. This can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction later in the day, when you inevitably find yourself reaching for a chocolate bar. If you can, take at least 20 minutes to yourself in a quiet place to really unwind. Have something starchy with some protein, and remember to add fruit and veg. A good tip is to mix hot and cold foods for a more satisfying meal.
- Baked potato with low-fat cream cheese and roasted vegetables, or tuna with salad
- Salmon or prawns on wholemeal bread with salad
- Vegetable and lentil soup and a bunch of grapes
- Avocado, chicken and tomato bagel
- Rice, pasta or couscous salad
The perfect, healthy snacks
Snacking has an unfairly bad reputation. Snacking itself is not inherently unhealthy, rather the snack choices we tend to make. If you are hungry, then by all means eat! Your body is trying to tell you something. But make sure you pick something nutritious, and stick to smaller portions so that you don't overdo your calorie intake.
- Handful of unsalted nuts
- Fruit, for example grapes, apples, satsumas, pears or chopped melon
- Celery or carrot sticks with tzatziki or hummus
- Two or three oatcakes with cottage cheese
The perfect, healthy dinner
This is usually the main meal of the day, but it doesn't have to be. There's no rule to say you can't have your largest meal at lunchtime — especially if it feels better that way. Again, aim for something starchy with some protein.
- Roast chicken with broccoli and sweet potato mash
- Grilled sardines with ratatouille and brown rice
- Wholemeal pasta with fresh pesto, tomatoes, sugar snap peas and spinach
- Chickpea curry with yogurt and cucumber raita
The perfect dessert
Yes, you can have a dessert! Eating healthily does not mean that you have to kiss goodbye to the sweet stuff. Here are some ideas for healthy desserts:
- Oatmeal based fruit crumble served with skimmed milk custard
- Fruit compote with half-fat crème fraîche
- Fruit sorbet (reduced sugar or sugar-free is ideal)
Hydration throughout the day
Ideally you should be drinking around eight glasses of water and try to aim for no more than four cups of tea or coffee during the day, unless you are drinking herbal tea. Also if you want to, have one alcoholic drink, for example: a small glass wine (preferably red) or a bottle of beer.