Practical guidelines for maintaining a healthy diet
Fruits and vegetables
Eating at least 400 g, or five servings, of fruits and vegetables each day reduces your risk of developing NCDs (2) and helps ensure your daily fiber intake.
Fruit and vegetable intake can be improved. To do this, it is necessary to:
Always include vegetables in your diet;
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks;
Consume seasonal fruits and vegetables; and
Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Reducing total fat intake to less than 30% of total energy intake helps prevent unhealthy weight gain in adults(1, 2, 3). In addition, the risk of developing NCDs can be reduced by:
reducing saturated fat intake to less than 10% of total energy intake;
Reducing trans-fats to less than 1% of total energy intake; and
Replacing saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats (2, 3), particularly polyunsaturated fats.
Consumption of fats, especially saturated fats and industrially produced trans fats, can be reduced in the following ways:
Steaming or boiling foods rather than frying or baking them;
replacing butter, pork fat, and ghee with vegetable oils rich in polyunsaturated fats, such as soybean, canola (rapeseed), corn, safflower, and sunflower oils;
eat reduced-fat dairy products and lean meat or trim visible fat from meat; and
limit consumption of baked and fried foods and pre-made snacks and other foods (such as donuts, muffins, cakes, cookies, and waffles) that contain industrial trans fats.
Salt, sodium, and potassium
Many people consume too much sodium which comes with salt (corresponding to an average of 9-12 g of salt per day), and not enough potassium (less than 3.5 g). High sodium intake and insufficient potassium intake contribute to high blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease and stroke (8,11).
Reducing salt intake to recommended levels, i.e., less than 5 g per day, could help prevent 1.7 million deaths per year (12).
People often do not know how much salt they consume. In many countries, most salt comes from processed foods (prepared foods; meat products such as bacon, ham and salami; cheese; and salty snacks) or from foods often consumed in large quantities (such as bread). Salt is also added to food during cooking (e.g., by adding broth, stock cubes, soy sauce, and fish sauce) or with meals (by adding table salt).
Salt intake can be reduced in the following ways:
Limit the amount of salt and sodium-rich condiments (such as soy sauce, fish sauce, and broth) added at meal times;
Avoid putting salt and sauces high in sodium on the table;
limit consumption of salty snacks; and
choose foods that are low in sodium.
Some food manufacturers modify the composition of their products to reduce sodium content, and you should check the labeling for sodium content before purchasing or consuming foods.
Potassium can mitigate the negative effects of excess sodium intake on blood pressure. Potassium intake can be increased by consuming fresh fruits and vegetables.
Consumption of sugars in both adults and children should be reduced to less than 10% of total energy intake (2, 7). Reducing consumption to less than 5% of total energy intake will provide additional health benefits (7).
Consumption of free sugars increases the risk of dental caries. Excess calories from foods and beverages containing free sugars also contribute to unhealthy weight gain, which can lead to overweight and obesity. Recent evidence suggests that free sugars have an effect on blood pressure and serum lipids. This suggests that reducing the intake of free sugars helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (13).
Consumption of sugars can be reduced in the following ways:
Limit consumption of foods and beverages high in sugars, such as sugary snacks, candy, and sweetened beverages (that is, all types of beverages containing free sugars, which include carbonated and noncarbonated soft drinks, fruit and vegetable juices and drinks, liquid and powdered concentrates, flavored waters, energy and sports drinks, prepared tea, prepared coffee, and flavored milk drinks); and
replace sugary snacks with fresh fruits and vegetables.