Understanding the Eatwell Guide
The Eatwell Guide shows the proportions in which different types of foods are needed to have a well-balanced diet. The proportions shown are representative of your food consumption over the course of the day or even a week but not necessarily each meal time.
The Eatwell Guide applies to most people regardless of weight, dietary restrictions/ preferences or ethnic origin however it doesn’t apply to children under 2 years of age because they have different nutritional needs. Between the ages of 2 and 5 children should gradually move to eating the same foods as the rest of family, in the proportions shown on the Eatwell Guide.
Anyone with special medical needs or dietary requirements might want to check with a registered dietitian on how to adapt the Eatwell Guide to meet their needs.
- Fruit and vegetables
- Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates
- Dairy and alternatives
- Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins
- Oils and spreads
Fruit and vegetables
Aim to eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day as these provide us with essential vitamins, minerals and fibre. Choose from fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced.
One portion is 80g or any of these: 1 apple, banana, pear, orange or similar sized fruit, 3 tablespoons vegetables, a dessert bowl salad, 30g dried fruit (counts as maximum of 1 portion per day) or 150ml glass fruit juice or smoothie (counts as maximum of 1 portion per day).
Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates
Starchy food such as potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, cereals and grains are a really important part of a healthy diet and should make up just over a third of the food we eat. They provide us with essential energy and B-vitamins and the wholegrain varieties also provide us with lots of fibre.
Base your meals around starchy carbohydrates and go for higher fibre varieties such as wholegrain bread and cereals, wholewheat pasta, brown rice and potatoes with their skins left on.
To keep these foods low in fat ensure you cook them in healthy ways such as baking, boiling, steaming or grilling rather than frying and avoid adding too much fat such as oil, butter, cheese or creamy sauces when preparing them.
Dairy and alternatives
Milk, cheese, yoghurt, fromage frais and dairy alternatives such as fortified soya milk are good sources of protein and important vitamins such as calcium which keeps our bones strong. Some dairy food can be high in fat, particularly saturated fat.
To cut down on fat while still getting plenty calcium and protein, go for lower fat and lower sugar options such as semi-skimmed milk, reduced fat cheese and lower fat/ sugar yoghurts.
When buying dairy alternatives, go for unsweetened, calcium fortified versions.
Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins
These provide important sources of protein, vitamins and minerals. Beans, peas and lentils (which are all types of pulses) are good alternatives to meat as they are naturally very low in fat and they are high in fibre, protein and vitamins and minerals eg. chickpeas, kidney beans, red lentils.
Choose lean meats and eat less red and processed meats e.g. bacon, ham, sausages and processed chicken products. Aim for two portions of fish per week, one should be oily e.g. salmon, mackerel or sardines.
Oils and spreads
Although some fat in the diet is essential, generally we are eating too much saturated fat and need to reduce our consumption.
Unsaturated fats such as olive oil, rapeseed oil, vegetable oil and spreads made from these are healthier fats and we should use these instead of saturated fats like butter, lard and coconut oil.
However, remember that all types of fat are very high in energy and should be limited in the diet.
Foods high in fat, salt and sugars
These include products such as chocolate, cakes, biscuits, full-sugar soft drinks, butter, ice-cream, chips, jam and sauces. These foods sit outside of the guide as they are not needed in the diet for health.
We tend to eat too much of these in our diets and this can cause health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol amongst others. If you consume these, you should have them less often and in small amounts. Foods and drinks high in fat and sugar contain lots of energy, particularly when you have large servings. Check the label and avoid foods which are high (red) in fat, salt and sugar.
Drink plenty of fluids
Aim to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid every day. Water, lower fat milk and sugar free drinks including tea and coffee all count.
Fruit juice and smoothies also count towards your fluid consumption, although you should limit these to no more than a combined total of 150ml per day.
Cut down on salt
Eating too much salt can increase your blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing heart disease or stroke.