All the Intermediate English Vocabulary You Need for a Healthy, Balanced Life

In the summer months, many people are trying to get in shape (lose weight or gain muscle).

In the colder autumn and winter months, people eat more and stay inside almost all the time—but you may find people talking about fitness plans in these months, too!

That means you will need to know the right English vocabulary for health and fitness!

You may be talking about summer and spring and start discussing fresh foods and outdoor exercise, or you may already like to talk about things like fitness with your friends. But to stay healthy and fit for swimsuit season (the warmer months when you can go to the beach and swim) you will need these vocabulary words!

Much of the language used for health and fitness is slang or popular idioms (like “swimsuit season”). You can talk about it with your close friends but also with your coworkers casually. Sometimes water cooler talk (conversations at the office when getting water or a drink while on break) will be about diets or trying to eat healthy. You can use these words in your daily conversations when asking about others’ fitness plans or describing your own.

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All the Intermediate English Vocabulary You Need for a Healthy, Balanced Life

We have introduced all the healthy food and fitness vocabulary you need into 3 sections: (1) Planning your diet, (2) choosing the right ingredients and (3) shopping smart. Take a look!

1. Creating a Plan for Health and Fitness

intermediate english vocabulary

The English vocabulary words here are useful when you’re getting ready to eat healthy and take better care of yourself. You can use these when talking about how you’re going to be healthy or lose weight, or when asking others about their own plans. You may also see these phrases frequently online or in magazines.

Eating Clean

Eating clean is a very modern, popular phrase that people use when they are changing their diet to something healthier. Eating clean means not eating processed foods (packaged foods that have artificial things added to them and are often less nutritious). It is also about eating fewer calories and drinking plenty of water. Doing this is called eating clean because you’re eating natural, wholesome foods. It can sometimes mean eating a lot of raw (uncooked) foods as well (like vegetables and fruits).

Going on a Diet

Your diet is what you eat daily. However, when you say you are going on a diet, this means something different. Diets are usually something that you do for a short amount of time. People often say “I’m starting a diet” or “I’m going on a diet” when they are going to begin their new healthy eating plan.

After a while, you will then hear them say, “I need to stick to my diet,” meaning that they do not want to eat unhealthy things outside their healthy diet plan. 

A diet usually has a list of rules that say what to eat and what not to eat. People find them online and see which ones are trending (popular at the moment) or they will make up their own. Short-term diets can often be more extreme, and you might hear someone say, “my diet is only eating bananas and apples for a week!”

Juicing and Cleansing

Going on a cleanse is even more extreme than a diet. Juicing, Cleansing or doing a Juice Cleanse are all pretty similar processes.

You can juice (drinking very healthy juice with fruits and vegetables, usually made at home with a juicer machine) while still eating other things. Your juice adds some more vitamins into your diet.

However, a cleanse is a diet that has you consume only liquids. A popular cleanse is drinking juice made from lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper.

juice cleanse is when you only drink juice for three days to a few weeks. These are meant to reboot your system (help you clean out your body and start fresh) so that you can become healthier quickly.

Cutting Carbs

Cutting carbs simply means to eat less carbs (sugars and starches). Carbs are things like bread, rice or pasta. When a person says that they are cutting carbs it means that they are cutting carbs out of their daily diet. Carbs is a shorter word for carbohydrates, which are found in starchy foods like breads, pastas, cakes, rice and doughnuts.

Cutting carbs may mean that you are eating no carbs at all, or simply eating less of them.

Counting Calories

Similar to cutting carbs, counting your calories is when you watch your overall calorie intake every meal.

This is a very popular way to measure the healthiness of food because calories are units that measure energy. The energy your body uses to move around comes from two main places: (1) The food you eat and (2) the fat stored in your body.

People often eat less so that their bodies will use their stored fat for energy instead. Eating less calories helps you lose weight if you are also exercising. You will need to use all the calories (energy) you consume when eating, or you will gain weight. Eating too many calories builds fat in your body.

By exercising and using more energy, people burn calories. This term is also used to describe the outcome of exercising. When you run 3 miles, you are burning many calories.

Staying Hydrated

This means to be drinking plenty of fluids (liquids like water, juice, etc.) throughout your day. People often say, “It’s important that you stay hydrated when you are exercising!”

Staying hydrated is usually done by drinking water or detox water (water with things added to make it more nutritious, like lemon or mint). You can also stay hydrated by drinking juice, sports drinks (like Gatorade) or anything else healthy. It is also important to stay hydrated when you are sick.

Following a Meal Plan

Like a diet, a meal plan is when you are eating only certain things. These are usually made by professional nutritionists (doctors that are specialized in nutrition and fitness). You can also have a meal plan made by a fitness instructor (teachers at gymnasiums who train you in fitness). Many meal plans can be found online or in health magazines.

Meal plans tend to last about a month. They are usually less strict than diets. Each day you will see all the meals you should eat. All the meals and recipes are planned carefully for you, so all you need to do is follow along to become healthy.

Watching What You Eat

This is a very simple and easy way to eat healthy. To watch what you eat simply means to pay attention to your food and make healthier choices. For example, you can watch what you eat and try not to eat burgers or sweets too much. You could also try to eat more fruits and vegetables. There is no set plan or strict diet—you are just trying to be a bit healthier than you were before.

Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamins

The word dose is used to talk about medicine. A dose is a small and particular amount. You can use this word to talk about vitamins too. There is a recommended amount of vitamins that you are supposed to eat daily to be healthy. This phrase means that you are making sure to eat that dose (that amount) in fruits and vegetables, or even just by taking vitamin pills.

2. Eating the Right Food

intermediate english vocabulary

After you have decided on a plan for healthy eating and fitness, then you will need to choose the right food.

Here, we will talk about the different types of healthy foods that people eat. There is a lot of important vocabulary that you will need to know to talk about healthy food and diets. You can use these vocabulary words when shopping for food.

It seems like the English vocabulary about food is growing larger every day.

For a super helpful summary of all the top English words, phrases and expressions related to food, check out the video below. You will be ordering your next meal or buying your healthy groceries like a native speaker in no time.

For more helpful videos about learning practical native English, subscribe to the FluentU YouTube channel and hit the notification bell.

Vegetarian and Vegan

To be a vegetarian means that you do not eat any type of meat, including chicken, beef, pork and fish. When food is labeled “vegetarian,” that means it has no meat in it.

To be a vegan means that you do not eat any meat or anything produced by animals, including eggs, honey, milk and cheese. When food is labeled “vegan,” that means it has no animal products in it at all.

People may be vegetarian or vegan for moral reasons (they don’t believe in eating animal products) or health reasons.


This is similar to vegetarian. Pescetarians will still eat seafood (fish, shrimp, lobster, etc.) even though they do not eat other kinds of meat.

Protein Style

This is when you replace carbs (bread, pasta, rice, etc.) with something else or leave them out completely. This phrase can be used to describe many different kinds of food. For example, if you eat a protein style burger usually there will be lettuce wrapped around the meat instead of buns (made from bread).

Lactose Intolerant

You are intolerant of a type of food when you eat it and later have negative effects, like a small allergy. Usually people who are lactose intolerant can eat dairy products, however, eating this will upset their stomachs, make them nauseous or cause indigestion.

Many people who are lactose intolerant will take medicine to help their body digest the dairy so they can still enjoy their ice cream.

Gluten Free

Gluten is a protein that is in wheat and certain grains that some people are allergic to. So if a product is labeled gluten free it is usually wheat free or uses a similar substitute. Many people eat gluten free as a trend to be healthier as well, similar to cutting carbs.


GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. This means that the product was created, or partially created, by engineers in a lab. For example, the corn we eat has been bred and modified by scientists for decades to be juicier and more delicious. Many people dislike the idea of modified food, for ecological or health reasons, so they look for packages that are labeled “Non-GMO” when shopping. However, most scientists agree that GMOs are safe to produce and consume.


A lot of foods are mass produced (large quantities made at a time by big companies). When a farm produces a lot of the same fruit, vegetable or other food, the farmers often need to use pesticides (chemicals to keep away bugs) or other things that can be harmful to people who eat them. So people try to buy organic instead. Often this is more expensive, but organic food feels safer and cleaner to eat than non-organic food.

Sugar Free

This is exactly what is sounds like. Foods that are labeled “sugar free” have no added sugar in them which may make them a healthier option. However, aspartame (an artificial sweetener) or corn syrup (a highly processed sweetener) may be used instead of sugar and some people do not want to eat that either. These days a lot of things are made sugar free since many people are trying to eat less sugar.

Heart Healthy

Foods labeled as heart healthy” contain ingredients that are good for your heart. This label might also mean that the food does not contain ingredients which are bad for your heart. Usually these products are low in cholesterol, fat and sugar. Because it is so important, many people try to eat things good for their hearts.

High in Fiber

Fiber helps you digest your food and regulate your sugar. Because it isn’t broken down it cleans out your system while you digest it. Many people look for labels that say high in fiber on their cereal or food that contains grains.

Low Fat

Many people try to avoid eating fat in their diet as well. Dairy products like milk and yogurt will usually have a low fat option for those who are on a diet. These are made by reducing the amount of fatty ingredients added to the food while maintaining the other ingredients. However, even many candies are low fat, so it is not always entirely healthy.


This is another very popular, modern phrase that people use when they are trying to eat healthy. You may have seen it online or in magazines several times before. Superfoods are foods that have more nutrients and vitamins than most do, and they also tend to have high antioxidants. The most popular ones right now are kale, acai berries, quinoa, avocados and cranberries. Most cleanses contain these ingredients.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Sounds complicated, right? It isn’t. These fatty acids are very important for the chemistry of the human body. People who want to be very healthy may add extra omega-3 fatty acids to their diets by buying special oils or pills that contain them. These oils are usually found in fish and there are several different kinds. They are supposed to help with making your skin and hair healthy, so they are very popular.

3. Shopping for Healthy Food

intermediate english vocabulary

So, now you know what foods you need for your healthy eating plan. But where can you go to buy the food you need to eat healthy? You can use these phrases to find the places you need when asking directions, or when asking a local friend where you can buy your needed items.


Eating local means that the food you are eating or buying comes from somewhere nearby. Restaurants love to get their ingredients from local organic farms, and people love to support them. Many people will pay more to buy local crops instead of ones imported from overseas. You might see small restaurants advertising “local and fresh ingredients” to bring in more customers. There is also the phrase Farm to Table, which means buying food from the farm and cooking it right away while it’s still fresh.

Farmers Market 

A lot of people went to farmers markets while they were growing up. Although they were becoming less popular, since many people want organic and local ingredients they are getting bigger again. These usually happen once a week, or a few times each week, when local farmers all meet in one place and set up booths (small outdoor shops) to sell their products. You can buy fruit, vegetables, honey and many other things at these outdoor markets. However, they usually prefer that you buy with cash!

Health Food Store

These are stores that specialize in organic, soy free, vegan or gluten free food, and sell plenty of grains and produce too. They usually also have supplements like vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. They look similar to regular grocery stores or markets, however it is difficult to find unhealthy food here. Although they have large selections of healthy food, these places are usually a little more expensive than the supermarket because of the high quality products.

Organic Food Section

Inside your health or grocery store you may find the organic section. You can ask someone where this is if you can’t find it as well. Because of the different prices, many places separate their regular and organic products to avoid confusion. If you are juicing or doing a cleanse it’s best that you shop in this area.


Now that you have all of your vocabulary to get started on talking healthy with your friends, the next step is to get started! Use these words in conversation, when shopping or when doing an online search before you start your own plan to get into great shape.

Christine McGahhey is an American writer currently living in South Korea who has volunteered for several years to teach students and adults English.

And One More Thing...

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