How to eat well

Eating healthily is important for your overall health and wellbeing, but it can also help to prevent falls. Eating regular, nutritious meals and drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids can help to avoid problems that can contribute to a fall, including:

  • lightheadedness
  • dehydration
  • tiredness
  • depression

What can I do?

Do

  • eat a varied and balanced diet
  • eat regularly, and don’t skip meals
  • keep hydrated by drinking water and other soft drinks regularly
  • keep to the recommended safe levels for drinking alcohol

Eating healthily

The eatwell plate highlights the different types of food that make up your diet. It also shows the proportions of each food group that you should eat to have a well-balanced and healthy diet.

Eatwell Guide showing what proportion of each food group you should eat
The Eatwell Guide shows how much of what you eat should come from each food group Public Health England © Crown copyright 2016

Spreading these proportions over a day will be easier than trying to include something from each food group in every meal. Try to include a variety of foods in your diet.

Fruit and vegetables

A third of what you eat should come from fruit and vegetables, which is at least 5 portions a day. It's easier than you think, with frozen, canned and dried varieties as well as one portion of pure juice counting towards your 5 a day.

Bread, cereals and starchy foods

Another third of your diet should come from:

  • bread
  • rice
  • potatoes
  • pasta
  • cereals
  • other starchy foods

Choosing higher fibre varieties will provide you with slower released energy, and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Eating some of these foods at each meal and snack times will prevent you from feeling lightheaded and dizzy.

The final third of your diet is split between:

  • milk and dairy foods
  • meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
  • foods high in fat and sugar

Milk and dairy

Milk and dairy foods provide calcium for healthy bones and teeth. The best foods to provide you with calcium are:

  • yoghurt
  • milk
  • cheese

Aim for 2 to 3 servings every day. A serving is a:

  • small matchbox size piece of cheese
  • medium yogurt
  • glass of milk

Meat, fish and eggs

Meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein provide protein for body repair. Aim for 2 to 3 portions every day.

Foods high in fat and sugar

You only need a small amount of foods high in fat or sugar. These are concentrated sources of calories and could cause you to gain weight if eaten too often.

Small amounts of fat provide essential fat-soluble vitamins needed for good health. Instead of saturated fats like butter and lard, choose healthier fats like:

  • monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil
  • polyunsaturated fats, found in sunflower and corn oils

Eating regularly

It’s important to eat regularly to help avoid problems like lightheadedness and tiredness, which contribute to your risk of falling. At a minimum, you should be eating 3 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) everyday.

As we get older our appetites often decrease. If you find it difficult to eat regularly, eat smaller meals and include nutritious snacks as well. If this continues to be a problem for you, ask your GP if a referral to a dietician would be helpful.

Keeping hydrated

Keeping your fluid intake up throughout the day is also important as dehydration can cause low blood pressure, dizziness and confusion, leading to an increased risk of falls.

Try to drink at least 6 to 8 cups of fluid every day, including:

  • water
  • juice
  • milky drinks
  • tea and coffee

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can make you unsteady on your feet, leading to an increased risk of falls. Alcohol can affect memory, balance and coordination and this can lead to falls and accidents.

Some groups of people are more likely to be affected by alcohol and should be more careful of their level of drinking on any one occasion. For example, those at risk of falls, those on medication that may interact with alcohol or where it may exacerbate pre-existing physical and mental health problems.

Low Risk Drinking Guidelines

The Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines for both men and women are:

  • To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.
  • If you regularly drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread your drinking evenly over 3 or more days. If you have one or two heavy drinking episodes a week, you increase your risks of death from long term illness and from accidents and injuries.
  • The risk of developing a range of health problems, including cancers of the mouth, throat and breast, increases the more you drink on a regular basis.
  • If you want to cut down the amount you drink, a good way is to have several drink-free days each week.

More information about about units of alcohol and how your drinking adds up.

Where to start

Think about how you currently eat and drink:

  • what positive things do you already do to eat and drink well?
  • what changes can you make that might help?
  • how will you make these changes?
  • who do you need to talk to?

Further information

The Food Standards Agency Scotland provides information on eating well using the Eatwell Plate, as well as advice about what to eat during different life stages

Telecare Self-Check online tool

Visit the Telecare Self-Check online tool to find the right support for you in your area. This easy to use online tool allows you to find helpful information on telecare services that could help you live independently at home for longer.

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