Healthy Eating

The key to healthy eating is to eat a wide variety of foods. Using the Food Pyramid as a guide will help make sure you get all the vitamins, minerals and goodness you need from your food.

Why is it so important?

Healthy eating is essential for good health, both physical and mental well-being. Also, the drinks/foods you eat can either protect you or increase your chances of getting heart disease or having a stroke.


What are the good foods? Tips for each shelf of the pyramid


Fruit and vegetables
5 or more servings a day

Fruit and vegetables are almost fat-free, packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre. However, overcooking vegetables destroys vitamins. Try steaming, microwaving or boiling vegetables in a little water with the saucepan lid on. Frozen vegetables are just as good as fresh. Try the many ways of enjoying fruit: fresh, dried, stewed, tinned in its own juice or as fruit-juice.


Breads, cereals, potatoes, pasta and rice
6 or more servings a day

These foods are high in energy but low in fat. It’s what you put on the bread or the sauce you use with pasta or rice that makes them high in fat. Choose mostly wholegrain and wholemeal varieties of bread, rolls and breakfast cereals. Try leaving the skin on potatoes.


Milk, cheese and yoghurt
3 servings a day

These foods are good sources of calcium and vitamin D for strong bones and protein, the building block for all parts of our body. Try to choose low-fat varieties, especially if you are overweight or have high cholesterol. Low-fat options contain the same amount of calcium as full-fat varieties.


Meat, poultry, fish and alternatives
2 servings a day

These foods are a good source of protein and iron (for healthy blood). Red meat is the richest source of iron. Choose lean red meat (for example, beef, lamb or pork) about 3 times a week and frequently replace with poultry. Have fish twice a week including oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, trout, herring or salmon.They help thin the blood and prevent clotting.

Reduced fat spreads and oils
2 servings a day

Spreads: choose low fat or reduced fat spreads. One heaped teaspoon or the size of one mini-pack is enough for two slices of bread. If using full fat spread or margarine, one heaped teaspoon is enough to cover three slices of bread. Butter should be limited to once a week at most.

Oil: All oils are 100% fat and all are high in calories so measure out the amount you use. Allow one teaspoon of oil per person when cooking.


What are the things to cut down?


Crisps, savoury snacks, biscuits, cakes, sweets and chocolate
Max 1 serving a day and ideally not every day

These foods are high in fat, including saturated fat, sugar and salt and so do your best to cut them out. Too much saturated fat in the diet increases cholesterol levels and high salt foods can increase blood pressure. These foods also lead to becoming overweight and obesity.



Alcohol is high in calories. Drinking more than your weekly limit can increase your weight and blood pressure and may damage your heart and liver.

Small amounts of alcohol may provide some protection against heart disease, but there is not enough evidence to recommend including alcohol as part of a heart healthy diet.

If you do drink, please spread your drinking over the week and keep some days alcohol-free. Do not drink more than the recommended upper limits: 17 standard drinks (SD) a week for men and 11 standard drinks a week for women.


What can I do to get on track?

Ask yourself: am I eating the correct amount of servings from each shelf of the Food Pyramid. Write down everything you had to eat or drink yesterday. Then add up the servings and compare. What changes to your diet do you need to make? Start today.

And as always, reducing your other risks like too much alcohol and smoking will also make a huge difference – we can help you there too.


Three changes to make a big difference


1. Low-fat cooking for a healthy heart


2. Reduce your weight.


3. Get active to keep your heart healthy

Any activity is better than none at all, particularly if you are not very active. So start small and add on the extra minutes, or that extra session when you feel ready.

It’s recommended that we are all physically active for at least 30 minutes, five days a week. Rather than one continuous session, you can build up to 30 minutes (or more) of activity over two to three shorter sessions e.g. 2 x 15 minutes gardening; or 3 x 10 minutes walking, dancing or cycling. For the best results, find an activity you enjoy.

If you are trying to lose weight, you need to be active for a longer period of time. The goal is for 60 to 75 minutes at a moderate intensity 5 days a week; or to spread the 300 minutes or more over the whole week. This will take some time and a little planning to build it into your routine, but there are lots of resources to help you get there.

Walking is an excellent and easy activity to get going. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and a safe route.

Healthy Eating – Resources

Fats – get to know the good fats and the bad fats in food with the Fats of Life magazine.

Help with losing weight.

Help with quitting smoking.

Advice on cholesterol.

Help with cutting down your salt intake.

Advice on being active.

Discover how to walk your way to a healthy with Sli na Slainte.


Ways To Live Better

Our guides on how to maintain a healthy & happy heart.

Lose Weight

Losing weight reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Learn More

Quit Smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Learn More


Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your blood.

Learn More

Join us to help end premature deaths from heart and stroke disease

Speak to our National Heart & Stroke Helpline Nurses

Need to talk? Freephone 1800 25 25 50 Mon - Fri 9am - 5pm, Thurs till 7pm

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