How to eat healthily after 50
Last updated 11th July 2023
4 min read
Healthy eating habits can boost your wellbeing, help to protect you against illness and keep you active.
On this page:
- How to eat a balanced diet
- How to spot processed foods
- How to read food labels
- How to drink enough fluid
- Where to find healthy food recipes
It's important to seek expert advice from your GP or a qualified professional before making any changes to your diet.
How to eat a balanced diet
The NHS says that a balanced diet means eating the right proportion of lots of different foods, as well as eating the right amount to keep your body weight healthy. According to their Eatwell Guide(www.nhs.uk opens in a new tab):
- Fruit and vegetables should make up just over a third of what we eat – five portions a day is a good target(www.nhs.uk opens in a new tab)
- Starchy food(www.nhs.uk opens in a new tab) (often called carbohydrates) should also make up just over a third of our diet, but aim for higher-fibre options like wholewheat pasta
- Beans, pulses, fish(www.nhs.uk opens in a new tab), eggs and meat(www.nhs.uk opens in a new tab) can be good sources of protein, vitamins and minerals
- Dairy products(www.nhs.uk opens in a new tab) like milk, cheese and yoghurt can also be good sources of protein, but make sure to choose low-sugar varieties
- It’s best to choose unsaturated fats(www.nhs.uk opens in a new tab) like olive oil
- You should try to only eat small portions of processed, sugary foods(www.nhs.uk opens in a new tab) like cake, biscuits and soft drinks every now and then
How to spot processed foods
The NHS explains that processed foods(www.nhs.uk opens in a new tab) and drinks include breakfast cereals, bread, crisps, sausage rolls, biscuits, cakes and soft drinks – to name just a few.
Not all processed foods are unhealthy. But salt, sugar and fats are often added to make them last longer and taste better, so it can be easier to eat more than the recommended amount.
The British Heart Foundation found that people who eat more ultra-processed foods are more likely to get heart or circulatory diseases(www.bhf.org.uk opens in a new tab). This doesn’t mean you have to cut high-salt and sugary processed foods out of your diet completely. Instead, try thinking of them as a treat you have every now and then.
Top tip: Instead of buying fast food, why not try cooking a healthy alternative at home? For example, burgers made with lean beef(www.bhf.org.uk opens in a new tab) and wholemeal bread are delicious and much better for you than a standard take-away burger.
How to read food labels
Knowing how to read and understand food labels can help you make more informed choices about food. The traffic light system(www.food.gov.uk opens in a new tab) on food labels in the UK is set by the Food Standards Agency, and works as follows:
- Red – High amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. Foods with lots of red on the label should be eaten in moderation.
- Amber – Medium amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. Foods that are mostly amber are generally OK to eat regularly.
- Green – Low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. The more green there is, the healthier the food.
Top tip: If you need more information, the British Heart Foundation has this helpful guide on what you should look for on food labels(www.bhf.org.uk opens in a new tab).
How to drink enough fluid
Water is essential for our health – but that doesn’t mean you have to drink countless glasses of it every day. Sugar-free tea, coffee and even milk can count towards your daily fluid intake(www.nhs.uk opens in a new tab), so aim for 6-8 glasses of fluid a day.
Where to find healthy food recipes
A great healthy recipe tool you can use is the British Heart Foundation’s healthy recipe search(www.bhf.org.uk opens in a new tab). It has a range of filters to help you find healthy, tasty recipes. You can filter by dietary requirements, cuisine, and even by specific conditions like high cholesterol.
You can also use the NHS’s healthier food swaps app(www.nhs.uk opens in a new tab). This lets you scan foods as you shop and shows you what’s really in them – as well as suggesting healthier alternatives.
We hope you found this guide to healthy eating helpful, but remember that it’s important to seek expert advice from your GP or a qualified professional before making any changes to your diet.
To get more inspiration on healthy living, take a look at our other articles:
- Over 50s football: benefits and how to get started
- Best free UK walking apps
- How to start cycling after 50
Eatwell Guide(www.nhs.uk opens in a new tab) – NHS Ultra-processed foods linked to early death(www.bhf.org.uk opens in a new tab) – British Heart Foundation Check the label(www.food.gov.uk opens in a new tab) – Food Standard's Agency