Eating a Balanced Diet

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The key to a healthy diet is balance. All foods can be enjoyed, it is just a matter of eating a little more of some and a little less of others in order to ensure we get the right balance of nutrients to keep us looking good and feeling great

So what is a balanced diet?

A balanced diet is made up of a mix of foods from the five main food groups.

It should be based on loads of fruits and vegetables (at least 5 portions a day) with plenty of bread, pasta, rice and potatoes.  Add a careful selection of meat, pulses and dairy products with a sprinkling of fatty and sugary foods and you should easily be within your reference intakes for energy, fat, saturates, sugars and salt.

Is lasagne a food group?

It can be difficult to understand where manufactured foods fit – a lasagne will have pasta, vegetables, meat, cheese and some oil in the recipe so it fits into all the food groups.

This is where Tesco can help.

Nutrition Information

Tesco is helping you make healthier choices by including clear nutritional labelling on the front of products.

We have a long history of leading the way in labelling – we started putting labels on the back of packs in 1985 and in 2005 we were the first retailer in the UK to put nutrition information of on the front of packs, based on Guideline Daily Amounts.  

The top figure in the boxes above shows the amounts of energy, fat, saturates, sugars and salt in one serving. Underneath are the percentages of the reference intakes from one serving. The colour coding is based on criteria set by the Department of Health and are either red, amber or green – like traffic lights – which is what you might hear them being called.

What are Reference Intakes?

Reference Intakes are a guide to the amounts of energy, fat, saturates, sugar and salt you should try not to exceed every day to have a healthy balanced diet. 

They are the new name for Guideline Daily Amounts – but the numbers haven’t changed. You'll see Reference Intakes provided per 100g and per portion.

Remember that reference intakes are only guidelines for a typical adult, not targets. They’re not the same for everyone. For example, they’re higher for active men and lower for inactive women and children.


Reference Intake


8400kJ / 2000 kcal










Use the colours to help you eat a healthy diet

Food products with the colour coding (traffic lights) on the front of the pack show you at-a-glance if the food you are thinking about buying has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturates, sugars or salt, helping you get a better balance.

If you see a red light on the front of the pack, it does not mean that you should not or cannot eat it but that you should try to keep an eye on how often you choose these foods, or try to eat them in smaller amounts. You should try to have a diet with fewer reds which will help you achieve a healthier diet.

If you see amber, these foods have average levels of nutrients, neither high nor low. Foods with ambers help you balance your diet; just try to include a few green ones too.

Green means the food is low in that nutrient. The more green lights, the healthier the choice but you should not just eat green foods as you need a balance with a few ambers to make sure you are eating all the nutrients you need. 

Many of the foods with traffic light colours that you see will have a mixture of red, amber and greens. So, when you’re choosing between similar products, try to go for more greens and ambers, and fewer reds, to help you eat a healthier diet.


We try and put recommended portion sizes on every product – based on what should be enough for a meal or a snack – if you don’t think it’s enough then add vegetables, salad or fruits to fill up on and get a better balance in your diet.

Every food has its place in a balanced diet – some just need to be eaten in smaller amounts or less frequently than others.  By showing the colour coding and the percentage of reference intakes on our packs the labels help you to pick and mix your groceries, helping your family eat more of the healthier stuff, while keeping tabs on those naughty-but-nice treats.

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