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Despite what you see in some diet books and TV programmes, healthy eating can be really straightforward. The eatwell plate above highlights the different types of food, or food groups that make up our diet, and shows the proportions we should eat them in to acheive a well balanced and healthy diet.

Based on the Eatwell Guide, try to eat:

Plenty of fruit and vegetables

Did you know that we should be eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and veg every day? It is possible to get your 5 portions through fresh, frozen, dried or tinned (in natural juice) fruit or veg.  Bear in mind that dried fruit is best eaten with a meal as its sugar content is very concentrated and it can contribute towards tooth decay.  Potatoes do not count as one of your 5 a day and are in the 'Starchy Foods' group.

Plenty of starchy foods like potatoes

This group also includes bread, rice and pasta. Choose wholegrain varieties (or eat potatoes with their skins on) when you can: they contain more fibre, and can make you feel fuller for longer.  Potatoes are an excellent choice and a great source of fibre especially if you leave the skins on where possible to keep in more of the fibre and vitamins. For example, when having boiled potatoes or a jacket potato, eat the skin too.

Some milk and dairy foods

Go for lower-fat milk and dairy foods. These are healthier options to help you get enough protein and calcium.

Some non-dairy protein

This group includes meat, fish, eggs and beans which are important sources of protein, vitamins and minerals, and form part of a healthy balanced diet. Protein also helps the body to grow and repair itself.  Starchy foods should make up around one third of everything we eat.   This means we should base our meals on these foods. 

More Eatwell Tips

  • It's all a question of balance - It's a good idea to try to get this balance right every day, but you don't need to do it at every meal, you might find it easier to get the balance right over a longer period, say a week.
  • Avoid foods and drinks high in fat or sugar.   You may notice that they are the smallest section of the Eatwell Plate, our body does not actually need them and too much of these foods and drinks can have harmful effects on our health.
  • Cut down on fat and sugar by eating fewer sweets, cakes and biscuits, and drinking fewer sugary soft or alcoholic drinks.  Sometimes we don't notice how much of these foods we are actually having, why not try swapping them for healthier alternatives with tips and suggestions from Change4Life's Smart Swaps?   
  • Try to choose options that are lower in salt when you can.  Learn more about the effects of too much salt and how to cut down by following the link.
  • Eating healthily is about eating the right amount of food for your energy needs.  In England, most adults are either overweight or obese.  In other words, many of us are eating more than we need and we should eat and drink fewer calories in order to lose weight, there is more about portion sizes within this Healthy Eating section.
  • Try to be more physically active throughout the day.  If our bodies take in more than we burn off the excess energy is stored as fat which can lead health issues that will affect our general health and well-being.

Is the Eatwell Guide  for me?

The Guide applies to most people - whether they're a healthy weight or overweight, whether they eat meat or are vegetarian, and no matter what their ethnic origin.  However, it doesn't apply to children under the age of two because they have different nutritional needs at this stage of development.

Between the ages of two and five, children should gradually move to eating the same variety of foods as the rest of the family, in the proportions shown on the eatwell plate.  As young children's tummies are smaller they do not need the same size portions as young people or adults.  Find out more in Breastfeeding and Introducing solids.

Anyone with special dietary requirements or medical needs might want to check with a registered dietitian or qualified nutritionist whether the eatwell plate applies to them or how they might follow this.


Fact Zone

Eating healthily is about eating the right amount of foods to have the right balance of energy intake for your needs.
It is important to have a good balance of foods in your diet. The healthy eating plate helps to show you what proportions of each food group you should be eating.
It is important to include foods from all food groups in your diet, but the proportions of each depend on each food type. Take a look at the eatwell plate to see how it works.
The eatwell plate is not applicable for children aged under 2 as they have different nutritional needs. Between 2 and 5, children should start to eat the same foods as the rest of their family.
The eatwell plate is applicable to most people including those who are of a healthy weight as well as those who are under or overweight.
The largest proportions of food types on the eatwell plate are fruit and vegetables and starchy foods like bread, rice and potatoes.
Food and drink that are high in sugar and fat should make up the smallest amount of the eatwell plate.