To eat healthily you need to get the right balance between different foods. For most people, a well-balanced diet is one that is low in fat, sugar and salt, and high in fibre5. Your diet should also contain enough protein and a wide range of vitamins and minerals5.
It is important to remember that your body’s nutritional needs may vary depending on the type and severity of your condition. Particularly, if you are unwell and losing weight you may need to vary your diet from the recommendations below. Please refer to the ‘Coping with eating difficulties’ section for more advice in those circumstances.
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The Eatwell Guide, developed by Public Health England, shows how much of what you eat should come from each food group. This includes everything you eat and drink during the day.
So, try to:
- eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
- base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates; choosing wholegrain versions where possible
- have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks); choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
- eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
- choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts
- drink 6 to 8 cups/glasses of fluid a day
If consuming foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar have these less often and in small amounts. The key to a healthy diet is to:
- Eat the right amount of calories for how active you are, so that you balance the energy you consume with the energy you use. If you eat or drink too much, you’ll put on weight. If you eat and drink too little, you’ll lose weight.
- Eat a wide range of foods to ensure that you’re getting a balanced diet and that your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.
It is recommended that men have around 2,500 calories a day (10,500 kilojoules). Women should have around 2,000 calories a day (8,400 kilojoules). Most adults are eating more calories than they need, and should eat fewer calories.
Other top tips for healthy eating
- Eat more fish – including a portion of oily fish
- Cut down on saturated fat and sugar
- Eat less salt – no more than 6g a day for adults
- Get active and be a healthy weight
- Don’t get thirsty
- Don’t skip breakfast
If you have advanced cirrhosis you may be advised to reduce your salt intake further (see ‘Cirrhosis and advanced liver disease’ section).
It is important to choose a variety of foods every day to get a wide range of nutrients. However, your diet should also be designed around you and the needs of your condition. Ask to see a registered dietitian if you are not sure.