Enjoy tasty, healthy and nutritious food

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best. However, we hear every day from individuals and families who feel overwhelmed with balancing a healthy diet against the busyness of everyday life. We’re here to help.

On this page, you’ll find links to help you cut out the most harmful foods, and inspiration for how you can enjoy healthy eating, whatever your tastes and preferences. If you have special dietary needs or a medical condition, remember to ask your doctor or dietician for advice before changing what you eat.

On this page

A mother and her child prepare some food together on the kitchen floor

What should I eat?

The Eatwell Guide divides the foods we eat and drink into 5 main groups. A healthy diet takes a mix of foods from each of the groups to give you the nutrients you need. This includes;

  • At least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Meals based on higher fibre starchy foods like rice, wholewheat pasta and potatoes
  • Some dairy or dairy alternatives
  • Add some protein such as beans, pulses, fish, eggs or meat
  • Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and only in small amounts

The Eatwell plate showing the types of food groups you should eat

Don’t forget to watch what you’re drinking as well. A single high sugar drink, even a smoothie, can undo a lot of effort elsewhere in your day. Drink water, alongside sugar free drinks.

If you purchase pre-prepared or packaged items, learn how to read the nutrition information so you can make the right choices whilst you’re on the go.

Recipe ideas

If you’re looking for inspiration, from lunchboxes to breakfast to puddings, the NHS has a range of tasty recipes to try, including;

Fancy taking on a cheap and easy seven-day challenge. Why not try the family meal plan for a week?

A woman enjoys flipping food in a wok in her kitchen

Healthy eating for younger children

Children aged 2 and under need a different mix of nutrients, so they don’t follow the eatwell guide. You can learn more about their needs here. Once a child is 2, they gradually move to eating the same foods as the rest of the family in the proportions shown in the eat well guide.

You’ll find a whole range of advice, on feeding, breastfeeding and safe weaning through the free NHS Start4Life service.

We will support you as a Trust to breastfeed wherever you want, including our dedicated breastfeeding rooms.

We have a dedicated page for information about infant feeding, including breastfeeding.

Try the NHS Food Scanner

One great way to involve your children in making healthy swaps and choices is the NHS Food Scanner.

The App is the ideal health hack, helping you swap food and drink that are higher in sugar, saturated fat and salt to healthier alternatives.

With a simple scan of the barcodes, you can see how much sugar, saturated fat and salt is in everyday food and drinks, and access suggestions for ‘good choice’ products.

Download the app today from the Apple app store or the Google play store.

Healthy Start - free fruit, vegetables, and milk

If you’re at least 10 weeks pregnant, or have at least one child that’s aged under 4, you may be eligible for the healthy start scheme if you receive certain types of allowance, credit or support.

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll receive a healthy start card which can be used in any shop that accepts Mastercard.

You can use it to buy;

  • Plain liquid cow’s milk
  • Fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables
  • Fresh, dried and tinned pulses
  • Infant formula milk based on cow’s milk

This scheme is replacing the previous healthy start vouchers. This is a free entitlement, so we are encouraging all families who are eligible to get their card and to use it regularly.

Who’s eligible for healthy start vouchers?

You receive one or more of…

  • Child Tax Credit (only if your family’s annual income is £16,190 or less)
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit (which includes the child addition)
  • Universal Credit (only if your family’s take-home pay is £408 or less per month from employment)

Or,

  • you’re under 18 and pregnant, even if you are not claiming any benefits
  • you claim income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and are over 10 weeks pregnant
  • you, your partner or your carer get Working Tax Credit run-on only after you have reported you’re working 16 hours or less per week

To find out if your family earns £408 or less per month from employment whilst claiming Universal Credit, look at your ‘take-home pay for this period’ on your monthly Universal Credit award notice.

Don’t forget you’re also likely to be eligible for free vitamins for you or your child as well.

How do I use a card?

The card is discrete, and you can use it alongside other shopping at any retailer that accepts mastercard.

If you’re only buying eligible healthy foods, you can just pay for them using your healthy start card, just like you would with a normal contactless bank card or via chip and pin.

If you’re buying a mix of eligible healthy foods alongside other food and drink, just tell the cashier how much you want to spend on the Healthy Start card, and how much you want to pay via bank card or cash.

You can check your balance online, and you don’t have to spend your full amount in a single shop.

Free Healthy Start vitamins

Eating a healthy diet is a great start to getting the vitamins your body needs to grow strong, fill up with energy and fight infections.

However, there are some vitamins that can be hard to get enough off in the UK, particularly when you’re growing. For example, Vitamin D (the ‘sunshine’ vitamin) deficiency is very common in the West Midlands. We also now know that having higher levels of vitamin D and folic acid during pregnancy has lots of benefits for your baby, for example reducing the chance of being born with Spina bifida.

Whilst you can buy many vitamins these days (make sure they have enough of what you need in, particularly 10ug of Vitamin D), you may also be able to get free Healthy Start vitamins from a range of pharmacies, health centres and community sites. Your midwife can also help you get them.

To make sure you can always pick up the vitamins you need, you’ll need to apply for a healthy start card, which you can do via the website or by ordering a form to complete.

Who’s eligible for healthy start vitamins?

You’re eligible for healthy start vitamins if you receive one or more of…

  • Child Tax Credit (only if your family’s annual income is £16,190 or less)
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit (which includes the child addition)
  • Universal Credit (only if your family’s take-home pay is £408 or less per month from employment)

Or…

  • you’re under 18 and pregnant, even if you are not claiming any benefits
  • you claim income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and are over 10 weeks pregnant
  • you, your partner or your carer get Working Tax Credit run-on only after you have reported you’re working 16 hours or less per week

To find out if your family earns £408 or less per month from employment whilst claiming Universal Credit, look at your ‘take-home pay for this period’ on your monthly Universal Credit award notice.

Don’t forget you’re also likely to be eligible for free fruit and vegetables as well.

Achieving a healthy weight

Most adults in England are overweight or obese. Many children and young people also have an unhealthy weight.

You can work it out yourself using the NHS BMI calculator. This page also lets you check your waist size, another important measure of your risk from excess tummy fat. You need to be careful interpreting BMI if you are very muscular or athletic, as you reach older age, and if you’re pregnant.

You can also check your stats using the height and weight machines in both our Children’s and Women’s hospital restaurants. Your child may also be weighed as part of the national child weight management programme.

If your weight is unhealthy, you’re not alone. But for your future health, it is important to take action to protect heart and bone health, and to reduce the risk of cancer and dementia.

A man lifts his daughter in the air at an outdoor gym with a bicycle in the background

There is plenty of help. This includes the links on this page for healthier eating, and our page on getting more physically active

National services

For adults, the NHS provides a free NHS Weight Loss Plan which runs over 12 weeks and has an app to help you along the way.

For children, Better Health Healthier Families has simple ways you can help your child with their weight.

An infographic suggests that you should find some support, make some healthier food swaps, eat balanced meals, try some new recipes, get moving and have less screen time with better sleep.

Supporting those with eating disorders

Our mental health service, Forward Thinking Birmingham, has lots of helpful information on managing an eating disorder.

Getting help early is really important, so if you have concerns about food and weight that are starting to have an impact on everyday life, you may need extra support. You can talk to your GP or school nurse, and we have a specialist team of dedicated mental health professionals who can provide treatment and support for eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

Local weight management services

Your local council and NHS will provide a range of healthy weight management services, which may be online, one to one or in a group.

You can always talk to your GP, health visitor or school nurse about what’s available to you and your family.

The following services are those we’re aware of for families wanting to take action on their weight locally;

Local services

Birmingham

  • Beezee bodies offers online and in person activities for helping your family achieve a healthy weight.

Coventry

  • Be Active Be Healthy provide a family weight management service, including a free 10 week programme and Buggy Fit.

Dudley

  • Recommend you speak to your child’s school nurse or GP to find out what programmes are available to you.

Sandwell

  • Offers free support for all ages including families. You can find out more via Healthy Sandwell.

Solihull

  • You can self refer yourself or your family to the Solihull Lifestyle Service via their website or by calling 0800 599 9880. They also provide a Eat well, Move more programme for children.

Walsall

Wolverhampton

  • Recommend you speak to your child’s school nurse or GP to find out what programmes are available to you.

Worcestershire

We provide information on these councils as the majority of our patients come from these areas. If you’re from another council, you should search for their information via a search engine or your local council’s website. We aren’t responsible for the content or delivery of these services, and they may have changed since we added them to our list. Last updated: 28 January 2022.

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