Eating well


Eating healthily is a huge part of looking after our general health and keeping ourselves well. Cooking simple nutritious meals for ourselves and our families is the best way to ensure that we meet all our nutritional needs to stay healthy.

Make a Plan

With some of us having very busy lives, planning our meals and snacks for the week ahead is a great habit to adopt. Making a plan means that we know in advance what we will be eating everyday, and removes having to make the daily decision which can be overwhelming.

It means we can have everything we need to hand and stops us from reaching for the convenience and processed foods.

New Initiatives this Winter

Grow it Yourself Grow it Yourself are launching the Grow it Forward programme, which is designed to help the nation eat well by inspiring and supporting people to grow, cook and eat some of their own food at home. Participants will register through their local library to grow some of their own food with a free GIY starter kit and encouraged to ‘grow it forward’ to 9 others by passing on seeds, seedlings or produce.

Safefood's START campaign is encouraging parents to use the time they spend together as a family as a good opportunity to introduce healthy habits at home. The campaign asks parents to make the most of their family time by adding a healthy habit to their routine.

external-link | Bord Bia ] have a new initiative for winter that will showcase a range of easy to prepare seasonal and nutritious recipes, centered around a healthy and balanced diet. They will also highlight some top tips on getting your garden ready for Spring, an activity for all the family to enjoy together.

Tips for healthy eating

  • try to keep to regular times for 3 meals and 2-3 snack breaks a day
  • try to pick healthier foods if you can. Use the food pyramid as a guide
  • put a reminder or note on the fridge and treats cupboard to make you think twice before eating outside of mealtimes
  • make a list of the meals you’re going to make so it can help you plan for the week and will help when doing your weekly shopping
  • make sure to drink plenty of water, keeping hydrated is so important
  • different foods have different nutrients so if possible try to have a variety of meals throughout the week. When you are buying fruit and vegetables, try to include a range of colours (think of a rainbow) as the different coloured options have different vitamins
  • use healthier cooking methods such as grilling or baking, rather than frying or roasting with oil or fat
  • choose wholemeal and wholegrain breads, cereals, pasta and brown rice where possible
  • try to eat five to seven portions of fruit, vegetables and salad each day. At mealtimes, aim for half of your plate to be vegetables or salad
  • avoid having foods that are high in calories, sugar and fat every day. They contain very little nutrition and can be very high in calories.

Tips for older people

For older people who may be isolating there are some additional points to note:

  • your body needs some protein at every meal – good sources are meat, chicken, fish, beans and peas, nuts and seeds and eggs
  • have family or friends looking after you to get fresh food whenever they can but also add in a few of these longer life foods for your store cupboard - tuna and sardines, baked beans, cartons of chicken soup or cans of lentil soup, tinned and dried fruit, dessert rice, and custard powder
  • dinner doesn't always have to be meat and 2 veg, some days it is fine to have beans, scrambled eggs or tuna mixed with sweetcorn and light mayonnaise on toast
  • ask the person who is helping you with groceries, to leave a litre of milk every second day and try to have half it daily - on cereal, in teas and coffees, as a drink with snacks and dinner and as a dessert- custard or rice pudding. You need calcium for your bones.
  • hot meals and drinks help to keep you warm, so have regular hot drinks and eat at least one hot meal a day if possible. Eating regularly helps keep energy levels up during winter

Quick meals

We all have busy lives, some of us are juggling childcare, full-time work and other competing responsibilities. Some of us are in essential roles with very little time to cook or are having to cook for ourselves for the first time. Whatever your circumstances, getting tasty nutritious meals to the table quickly can be a daily challenge.

Fresh produce is almost always the best option, but when it is not available there are plenty of healthy alternatives that are easy to store and prepare e.g tinned and frozen foods. Make sure your store cupboard is stocked with key everyday ingredients, for example pasta, rice, and eggs.

Safefood have lots of recipes for really nutritious simple meals. Safefood have lots of recipes for really nutritious, simple meals here.

Snacks and Treat foods

When making your healthy eating plan make sure to include 2-3 healthy snacks per day, but don’t cut out treat foods completely, a little now and then is okay.

Follow the simple tips below to make this process a bit easier:

  • try not to keep a large supply of treats at home, this just adds to the temptation
  • make sure there are plenty of healthy snacks available, such as fruit, veg, cheese, nuts, and yoghurt
  • don’t be afraid to say no to giving your kids treats. Find other ways of rewarding them, such as playing a game with them, allowing them to Skype or call a friend, or allowing them to choose a movie to watch

Safefood have more useful tips on managing treats here. Safefood have more useful tips on managing treats here.

For some more ideas for healthy snacks click here.


Many restaurants and takeaways are still working and delivering food.

If you do decide to treat yourself to a takeaway, using our simple tips below will help you to make a healthier choice:

  • takeaway portions are often quite large and ideally should be shared between 2 people
  • dishes labelled deep fried, battered or crispy should be eaten less often as these are higher in calories, fat and salt than foods that are not deep fried
  • avoid nibbling on poppadoms and dips, or prawn crackers – on average, one portion of poppadoms contains over 100 calories, an average portion of prawn crackers contains over 600
  • for a healthier pizza option, opt for more vegetables such as sweetcorn, peppers, mushrooms, onions, olives and so on and ask for less cheese or a low fat cheese option
  • opt for a thinner crust, small or medium pizza rather than a large deep base

For some more practical tips on making healthier takeaway choices go to

Cooking with children

Cooking with your children is an ideal way to allow children to feel that they are contributing to the work of the home and for them to learn some valuable life skills. It is also an opportunity for you to have fun together as a family.

There is no exact age for starting but generally children should be encouraged to become involved with basic food preparation skills as soon as they show an interest.

Here are some guidelines to help you and your child get started:

Ideas for 3 year olds

3 year olds can help by:

  • putting bun cases in a bun tray (helps develop motor skills)
  • using child friendly biscuit cutters
  • adding small ingredients (for example, dried fruit) to the mix and so on

Ideas for 4 and 5 year olds

4 - 5 year olds can help by:

  • whisking eggs;
  • stirring liquid ingredients
  • adding dry ingredients
  • sifting flour
  • rolling cookie dough

Ideas for 6 - 8 year olds

6 - 8 year olds can help by;

  • measuring ingredients
  • spooning the mix into cases
  • kneading dough
  • arranging toppings on, for example pizza / sandwich
  • preparing fruit for a smoothie
  • preparing small snacks and so on

Ideas for 9-11 year olds

9 – 11 year olds can help by:

  • preparing baked products under supervision
  • chopping fruit and vegetables
  • preparing dough
  • making fruity muffins
  • mashing potatoes
  • preparing pasta dishes
  • making pizza (allow them to name the pizza, for example Paul’s Pizza!)
  • using food preparation equipment under supervision

Food safety

At this time the usual food safety guidelines apply when preparing and cooking food. The main risk of transmission of COVID-19 is from close contact with infected people and not from contaminated food.

Here are some tips for safe food shopping:

  • when you go food shopping, you should wash your hands before you leave the house, avoid touching your face when you’re out and follow social distancing
  • wwhen you come home, you should wash your hands straight away. Wash them again once you have unpacked and put away your shopping
  • if self isolating remember that you can't leave the house, get your shopping and food delivered

Managing Your Weight

Unplanned weight loss

If you or someone you know is experiencing unplanned weight loss that might be related to illness, social isolation or reduced appetite, it is important to tell your GP or public health nurse. They can recommend some dietary resources that can help, such as a high-energy high-protein cookbook called Making the Most of Every Bite.

The cookbook and advice is available here but make sure you seek advice from your GP, nurse or dietitian first.

Unplanned weight gain

Changes in our everyday routines, increased stress and the shorter days can all contribute to unplanned weight gain. Planning meals and snacks, including water, getting regular exercise and ensuring that you get enough sleep will all help to maintain a healthy weight. Check out our healthy eating guidelines ( for information on portion sizes and meal ideas.

Growing Your Own

Grow It Yourself has some great tips and ideas for growing your own fruit and veg at home. The website includes a useful month by month calendar giving ideas for what to sow/harvest/or prepare that month. And don’t think it is too late to start gardening this year, there are some hardy winter veg that can still be sown!