Your Diet and Your Weight

Diet plays a key role in your health, particularly since modern manufactured foods tend to be high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, all of which drives the global epidemics of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The preventive medication provided as part of the Polypill Prevention Programme can substantially reduce this adverse effect of a typical diet but it is not a substitute for healthy eating. This preventive medication helps reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and when you eat a healthy diet this risk is reduced more.

Diet, food and drink

A diet based on starchy foods such as rice and pasta, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, some protein-rich foods such as poultry, fish and lentils, some milk and dairy foods, avoiding fat, salt or sugar, will give you all the nutrients you need. Most adults need to eat and drink fewer calories in order to lose weight, even if they already eat a balanced diet.

Weight, height and BMI

Making small changes to your diet can help you to shed excess pounds and achieve a healthy weight. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a good way to check if you are a healthy weight. You can check your BMI using a BMI healthy weight calculator at NHS Website. BMI is a measure of whether you are a healthy weight for your height.

Your BMI could be an important cause of many health issues, including diabetes. Why not try the beat diabetes risk calculator to find out your risk and your target weight reduction?

Eat less saturated fat

Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter and lard, pies cakes and biscuits, fatty cuts of meat, sausages and bacon, and hard cheese and cream.

Most of us eat too much saturated fat. The average person should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day - a reasonable amount would be 15g a day.

You can use these figures to guide your choices when you are shopping. When you check nutrition labels on food packaging and see how much saturated fat is contained in many common foods, you'll see how easy it can be to exceed the recommended maximum amount.

You can learn more about fat, including how nutrition labels can help you cut down, in Fat: the facts.

Saturated fat in the UK

sat fat

GDA = Guideline Daily Amount
National Food Survey; HMRC Alcohol Facts;, COMA, SACN,

Cut down on Sugar

Sugars occur naturally in foods such as fruit and milk, but we don’t need to cut down on these foods. Sugars are added to a wide range of foods, such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, and some fizzy drinks and juice drinks. These are the sugary foods that we should cut down on.

Why cut down on sugars?

Evidence from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that most adults and children eat more sugar than is recommended as part of a healthy balanced diet.

Many foods that contain added sugars also contain lots of calories, so eating these foods often can contribute to you becoming overweight.

Food and drinks that have a lot of added sugars contain calories, but often have few other nutrients. To eat a healthy, balanced diet, we should eat these types of foods only occasionally, and get the majority of our calories from other kinds of foods such as starchy foods and fruits and vegetables. Learn more in A balanced diet.

Sugary foods and drinks can also cause tooth decay, especially if you eat them between meals. The longer the sugary food is in contact with the teeth, the more damage it can cause.

The sugars found naturally in whole fruit are less likely to cause tooth decay, because the sugars are contained within the structure of the fruit. But when fruit is juiced or blended the sugars are released. Once released these sugars can damage teeth, especially if fruit juice is drunk frequently.

Fruit juice in moderation is still a healthy choice. But it is best to drink fruit juices with as low sugar contents as possible.

For a healthy, balanced diet, cut down on foods and drinks containing added sugars.

Tips to cut down on sugars

These tips can help you cut down:

  • Instead of sugary fizzy drinks and juice drinks, go for water or low sugar drinks.
  • If you like fizzy drinks, try diluting fruit juice with sparkling water.
  • Swap cakes or biscuits for a currant bun, scone or some malt loaf with low-fat spread.
  • If you take sugar in hot drinks, or add sugar to your breakfast cereal, gradually reduce the amount until you can cut it out altogether.
  • Rather than spreading jam, marmalade, syrup, treacle or honey on your toast, try a low-fat spread, sliced banana or low-fat cream cheese instead.
  • Check nutrition labels to help you pick the foods with less added sugar, or go for the low-sugar version.
  • Try halving the sugar you use in your recipes. It works for most things except jam, meringues and ice cream.
  • Choose tins of fruit in juice rather than syrup.
  • Choose wholegrain breakfast cereals, but not those coated with sugar or honey.

Sugar in the UK


GDA = Guideline Daily Amount
National Food Survey; HMRC Alcohol Facts;, COMA, SACN,

Read more at the Action on Sugar website

Reduce your salt intake

You don't have to add salt to food to be eating too much: 75% of the salt we eat is already in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereal and ready meals.

The salt in our diet is an important cause of raised blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, which around one third of adults in the UK already have. High blood pressure often has no symptoms. But if you have it, you are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke.

Reducing your salt intake reduces blood pressure, which means that your risk of developing stroke or heart disease is reduced.

Foods that contain salt

Some foods are almost always high in salt because of the way they are made. Other foods, such as bread and breakfast cereals, can contribute a lot of salt to our diet. But that's not because these foods are always high in salt: it's because we eat a lot of them.

High salt foods

These foods are almost always high in salt. To cut down on salt, eat them less often or have smaller amounts:

  • anchovies
  • bacon
  • cheese
  • gravy granules
  • ham
  • olives
  • pickles
  • prawns
  • salami
  • salted and dry roasted nuts
  • salt fish
  • smoked meat and fish
  • soy sauce
  • stock cubes
  • yeast extract

Salt in the UK


GDA = Guideline Daily Amount
National Food Survey; HMRC Alcohol Facts;, COMA, SACN,

Foods that can be high in salt

In these foods, the salt content can vary widely between different brands or varieties. That means you can cut down on salt by comparing brands, and choosing the one that is lower in salt. Nutrition labels can help you do this. These foods include:

  • bread products such as
    crumpets, bagels and ciabatta
  • pasta sauces
  • crisps
  • pizza
  • ready meals
  • soup
  • sandwiches
  • sausages
  • tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and other sauces
  • breakfast cereals

How much salt?

Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day: that's around one full teaspoon.

Of course, one easy way to eat less salt is to stop adding salt to your food during cooking and at the dinner table. If you regularly add salt to food when cooking, try cutting it out or adding less: you'll rediscover the real tastes of your favourite foods. And when you sit down to eat, taste your food first to see if it needs salt.

To really cut down, you need to become aware of the salt that is already in the everyday foods you buy, and choose lower salt options. Fortunately, nutrition labels on food packaging now make this a lot easier. Most pre-packed foods have a nutrition label on the pack or side of the packaging.

Many foods also display information on the salt content on the front of the packaging. This may show the salt content as a percentage of your Guideline Daily Amount, or display a traffic light to show whether the food is low, medium or high in salt. Where traffic lights are used, red means high: leave these foods for an occasional treat, and aim to eat mainly foods that are green or amber.

Read more at the Consensus Action on Salt website

Improving your diet and taking the preventive medication provided as part of the Polypill Prevention Programme helps to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by reducing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

More about Blood Pressure » More about Cholesterol » Online consultation