The eatwell plate is the United Kingdom’s national food guide which is designed to help the citizens have a healthy and balanced diet. It provides a visual representation of the foods that you should be eating each day as well as the quantities and although is based on the government’s advice, it has also been tested with both health professionals and consumers in general.
The eatwell plate includes foods that provide with us essential nutrients, like dairy products, starchy foods and vegetables. Read on to learn the percentages for each category and how you can eat a well-balanced meal.
The eatwell plate is based on the basic five food groups and by providing a visual representation of each food as well as the proportion it should make up in a diet. The percentages for the eatwell plate are the following:
- Fruit and vegetables: 33%
- Bread, rice, potatoes pasta and other starchy foods: 33%
- Milk and other dairy products : 15%
- Meat, fish, egg, beans and other non-diary sources of protein: 12%
- Foods and drinks high in fat or sugar: 7%
1. Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of our diet because studies have shown that people who eat more of these foods have a reduced chance of developing chronic diseases including certain cancers and coronary heart disease. Ideally you should be eating five or more portions of fruits and vegetables each day.
This food group includes all fruits and vegetables with the exception of potatoes, which are a starch. Some examples include carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, sweet corn, peas, cabbage, broccoli, raisins, pineapple, mango, strawberries, grapes, bananas, oranges, pears and apples. Remember that a portion of fruits and vegetables is around 80 grams (like one apple, or 150 ml of fruit juice) and they should make up a third of our daily diet.
2. Starchy Foods
Starchy foods include things such as bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, cornmeal, yams, couscous and breakfast cereals. You should always try to go with wholegrain options for these products when possible.
Like fruits and vegetables, these should be about a third of your diet. Starchy foods have less than 50% of the calories you would find in fat. When you opt for wholegrain options, you get more fiber as well as more nutrients. Wholegrain starches even digest more slowly, making us feel full longer.
3. Dairy Products
Dairy products include milk, yogurt, cheese, quark, cream cheese, cottage cheese and fromage frais. Remember that cream and butter are not included in this category because of their high fat content; instead they are in the final category of items high in fat and sugar. You should always try to select low-fat options of dairy products and if that isn’t possible, try to reduce the amount of them you eat. Dairy is essential because it is an excellent source of calcium as well as other proteins and vitamins.
4. Meat, Fish, Eggs and Beans
You should try to eat foods in this group every day and make sure to include fish in your diet two times a week. You will notice that this group includes beans even though it is already in the fruits and vegetable group.
Some examples of this food group include meat, game and poultry (such as lamb, pork, chicken, sausages, bacon and burgers), white fish (such as cod, coley and haddock), oily fish (such as whitebait, salmon, trout and sardines), shellfish (such as oysters, squid and crab), nuts, eggs, beans and other legumes (such as lentils, kidney beans and baked beans).
These foods are an excellent source of protein as well as vitamins and minerals. When cooking your meat, remember that some items are higher in fat so you should always go with leaner cuts, remove the skin and fat from chicken, try to grill your meat instead of frying it, try to avoid salami, meat pies and sausages (due to their high fat content) and opt for boiled or poached eggs instead of fried ones. Beans and other legumes have low fat content but high amounts of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, making them an excellent choice.
5. Foods and Drinks High in Fat and/or Sugar
Foods and drinks that are high in fat and/or sugar not only have a great deal of calories, but can also cause tooth decay so you should always try to limit your consumption of them. Some examples include mayonnaise, cream, oil, margarine, butter, chips, honey, jam, ice cream, pastries, puddings, sweets, chocolate, biscuits, sugary drinks and cakes. If you need to snack on something, try to choose a healthier option such as unsalted nuts, low-fat yogurt or fruit.
Watch these videos to learn more about Eatwell Plate percentages and what foods to eat:
The eatwell plate episode 1: Introduction & Fruit and vegetables
The eatwell plate episode 2: Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods
Tips on Eating a Healthy Diet
- Whenever you select a food, you should try to choose ones that have low levels of sugar, salt and saturated fats.
- It is important to remember that potatoes are classified as a starch, not a vegetable so they don’t count towards your five fruits and vegetables a day.
- You should do your best to have fruits and vegetables of different colors as this is the best way to get a variety of vitamins and minerals.
- When selecting your 5-a-day fruits and vegetables, try to choose 3 vegetables portions and 2 of fruits. This is crucial if you want to lose weight because vegetables tend to have fewer calories.
- When you are selecting your starches, you should always try to get wholegrain pasta and rice. These foods take longer to digest which means you will feel full for more time and have energy for longer.