Staying healthy

For most people a healthy diet includes lots of fruit and vegetables, some starchy foods, such as potatoes, some meat or fish, some dairy products, and a little fat, salt and sugar. Drinking plenty of water also helps. Talk to a dietitian or your doctor before you make any changes to your diet as they may be able to offer some advice.

You should speak to your doctor if you are worried about being overweight or underweight. Some cancer treatments may make you put on weight. You can try to make small changes to lose weight, such as eating healthily or being more active.

Some people on a diet may not stick to it all the time. This is normal. If you are generally eating healthy food it is fine to have the occasional treat. This can make it easier to socialise and go out for dinner.

A healthy eating guide

For most people, a daily balanced diet includes:

  • lots of fruit and vegetables
  • plenty of starchy foods (carbohydrates), such as bread, rice, pasta, noodles, couscous and potatoes
  • some protein-rich foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs and pulses (beans and lentils)
  • some milk and dairy foods, such as cheese, yoghurt and cream
  • just a small amount of food high in fat, salt and sugar

Drinks should mainly be water, tea and coffee (without sugar), or sugar-free drinks such as fizzy drinks, colas and squashes.

We have more information about alcoholic drinks.

The diagram below shows how much of each type of food you should try to eat.

Food groups
Food groups

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Keeping to a healthy weight

It is not good to be either overweight or underweight. Eating too much can make you overweight, which can lead to health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Not eating as much food as your body needs can also affect your health.

Many people in the UK are heavier than the recommended weight for their height. And unfortunately, certain types of treatment for cancer, such as hormonal therapies or steroids, can lead to weight gain.

Losing weight can be difficult, but trying to keep to a healthy weight is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of developing cancer. Being overweight increases the risk of many types of cancer, including bowel, kidney, womb and gullet (oesophagus) cancer. Women who are overweight and have been through the menopause are at an increased risk of breast cancer.

There is also evidence that women who have breast cancer after the menopause may be able to reduce their risk of the cancer coming back by keeping to a healthy body weight after treatment. Being overweight may also increase the chances of complications if you need surgery.

Try to keep your weight within the normal range for your height. Your GP can advise you on your ideal weight. If you are concerned about your weight, get in touch with your GP or a dietitian for advice and support. Dietitians can give you advice about healthier food choices that are lower in calories but still make you feel full. Fruit and vegetables are better foods to fill yourself up with than unhealthier snacks such as biscuits and cake.

Be patient with yourself. Losing weight is a gradual process. It is important to eat a healthy, balanced diet to make sure you get all the nutrients you need to keep your body healthy. It is reasonable to aim to lose about 0.5 to 1kg (1lb to 2lbs) a week.

Top tips for keeping to a healthy weight:

  • Only eat as much food as you need, according to how active you are. You may need to discuss this with a dietitian.
  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, and less fat and sugar.
  • Try to be more physically active.

We have information about different ways to keep active.

Chicken, sweetcorn and noodle soup

A healthy view on food

Food gives us what we need to keep our bodies healthy and energised. But it is also an important part of our social lives, whether we are spending time with family and friends at meals and barbecues, or celebrating with treats like cakes. Sometimes we eat a favourite food to reward ourselves.

Even when you have successfully changed to a healthier balanced diet, you may not always feel like following it strictly. This is normal. Everyone enjoys having an occasional treat or meal out. You could try having a smaller portion than you would normally have. But if you are eating well most of the time, you can allow yourself less healthy foods when socialising or celebrating.

Another idea is to have one ‘free’ day a week, when you eat whatever you want. You may quickly find that the healthier you eat, the less you crave the so-called ‘forbidden foods’. Your idea of treats may also change to healthier options.

‘I try and have five portions of fruit and veg a day and wholemeal bread and things like that. But I eat meat. I use butter. I drink alcohol. And I aim to do those things in moderation.’


Back to Healthy eating

Diet and cancer

Keeping to a healthy weight and maintaining a balanced diet can help reduce the risk of developing some cancers.

How to eat healthily

Knowing about food types and limiting your alcohol intake can help you maintain a healthy diet.