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Healthy living

Healthy living is about making healthy choices every day. In this section we look at healthy eating, exercise and smoking.

Eating well, being physically active and not smoking are three of the best things we can do to stay healthy. Staying healthy can help to prevent chronic diseases and reduce the risk of you becoming ill or seriously injured.

Living healthier is a personal choice and everyone has a role to play. Individuals and families, communities, the government and organisations can work together to create environments and conditions that support healthy living. 

If you are living with a long term condition keeping fit and healthy can be challenging, making small changes to your lifestyle can make a big difference to your wellbeing, such as stopping smoking, losing weight, eating healthily, drinking less alcohol or doing more exercise. Talk with your GP or other health care professionals such as your practice nurse or pharmacist for information and guidance. They will help you look at your lifestyle and suggest changes that are suitable for your condition and any treatment you're having, they can also let you know about local services that can help you. 

Healthy eating

A balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health and can help you feel your best. It doesn't have to be difficult. The key to a healthy diet is to eat the right amount of calories for how active you are, so that you balance the energy you consume with the energy you use. 

If you eat or drink too much, you’ll put on weight. If you eat and drink too little, you’ll lose weight. It is recommended that men have around 2,500 calories a day and women should have around 2,000 calories a day. Eating a wide range of foods will ensure you are getting a balanced diet making sure your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.

The Eatwell Guide (Public Health England) provides a useful guide to government recommendations on eating healthily and achieving a balanced diet. Click on the photo below to be taken to an interactive version on NHS Choices. 

Eatwell plate (Dept of Health)

Further information on healthy eating is available from:
8 tips for healthy eating a guide from NHS Choices

Getting started 12-week diet and exercise plan from NHS Choices

Food - a fact of life provides a wealth of free resources about healthy eating, cooking, food and farming for children and young people aged 3 to 18 years. The resources are progressive, stimulate learning and support the curriculum throughout the UK. All resources are designed to ensure that consistent and up-to-date messages are delivered.

The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), a registered charity, provides impartial, evidence-based information on food and nutrition. The core purpose is to make nutrition science accessible to all through the interpretation, translation, and communication of often complex scientific information.


The NHS advises that adults aged 19 and over should do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week with exercise on at least five days a week to help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. For adults who want to lose weight but not change their diet, 45 to 60 minutes of exercise a day is recommended to help prevent obesity. Vigorous housework or gardening and a brisk walk can count as exercise. 

NHS Fitness studioFind an exercise that suits your lifestyle and goals whether that means going to the gym, taking a yoga or dance classes or using an exercise DVD at home. The NHS Fitness Studio has a selection of online exercise videos that you can follow at home. Whether your aim is to lose weight, get fitter, improve your strength or simply de-stress, these workouts should offer something for you. They have been created by fitness experts and range from 10 minutes to 45 minutes in duration.

Exercise with a disability

Exercising with a disability may seem difficult but in today’s society there are a range of exercise services available to disabled people. Being active is great for your physical health and fitness and evidence shows that it can also improve your mental wellbeing. 

It is important to exercise in the most appropriate form, regardless of your disability. According to the NHS approximately 50% of wheelchair users die from cardiovascular problems, while the chances of heart and lung problems can be controlled or prevented with regular exercise in moderation.

Before exercising with a disability:

1. Ask your doctor for any exercise restrictions or recommendations. Some exercise can exacerbate certain conditions, while others can be extremely helpful. Water exercise is often recommended for sufferers of Fibromyalgia.

2. Seek the aid of a physical therapist before starting to exercise on your own. They can tailor an exercise regime for your condition.

3. Hire a helper. Depending on your disability, this could be a personal trainer, they will be able to take the recommendations of your doctor or physical therapist and ensure you are doing the exercises safely and correctly.

4. Look for disability exercise support groups, or even start one yourself. You may find information through your local hospital, community centre or your local gym. You can also search online or put out a flier and see if there is a need within your community?

5. Consider getting a gym membership. Look for one that has a pool, personal trainer or aides and good disability access. This may be the most cost-effective way to get a workout.

6. Set short-term goals, such as going for a swim for 15 minutes, 3 days a week. Long-term this could become 20 minutes a day.

Further information and guidance is available from the NHS Choices publication Getting Active and from the English Federation of Disability Sport guide Being Active.

Quit smoking and feel better in 20 minutes!

Over 70% of adult smokers say they would like to quit, but studies have found that the longer you smoke, the less faith you have in your ability to stop. If you smoke, giving up is probably the biggest single step you can take to improve your health.

Stop smoking (NHS Choices)If you stop smoking right now:
In 20 minutes your blood pressure and heart rate will return to normal. This immediately lowers your risk of having a heart attack. Your circulation will also improve, bringing fresh blood to your fingers and toes and they may start to tingle. 

In 8 hours your oxygen levels will return to normal which will help replenish dried out skin and hair caused by smoking. The nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in your blood reduce by half. Carbon monoxide in high doses can be fatal, but at low levels such as those found in cigarettes, it causes shortness of breath and increased heart rate. 

In 24 hours carbon monoxide will be completely eliminated from your body and your lungs will start to clear out excess mucus and any other smoking debris. You may notice you have a cough or sore throat as new lung tissue starts to grow. 

In 48 hours there is no nicotine left in your system and your sense of smell and taste will improve. One side effect you may experience within the first 48 hours is light-headedness as the carbon monoxide leaves your system. 

In 3 days your breathing will become easier as the bronchial tubes in your lungs begin to relax. Your concentration may waver as the withdrawal symptoms from the nicotine kick in, however your energy levels will start to increase.

If you would like help with giving up guidance is available on NHS Choices: Stop Smoking Treatments.

Related information

Supporting organisations

NHS Choices:

Food - a fact of life provides a wealth of free resources about healthy eating, cooking, food and farming for children and young people aged 3 to 18 years.

The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), a registered charity, provides impartial, evidence-based information on food and nutrition.

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