What is the Eatwell guide, why is it essential, and how to use it?

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The Eatwell guide launched in March 2016 in replacement of the Eatwell plate. It was found around that time that the Eatwell plate no longer resonated with the public and needed more clarification.

The Eatwell plate demonstrated how to build a healthy plate with a full breakdown of how to construct a well-balanced meal. On the other hand, the Eatwell Guide shows intakes for various food groups that should be eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet.

This is more of a holistic approach to dieting than a set of rules to follow for each and every meal.

Although both are very similar, there are also some distinct differences.

In this post, we’ll look at what the Eatwell guide is, the food breakdown, why it’s useful, and how to use it to strengthen your healthy eating habits. We will also show you how to create your own balanced meal with delicious recipes.

What is the Eatwell Guide and who is it for?

the eatwell guide

The Eatwell Guide demonstrates the proportions of various foods that are needed for a well-balanced and healthy diet. The percentages shown are indicative of your food intake over the course of a day or even a week, not necessarily at each meal.

The Eatwell Guide applies to the vast majority of people, regardless of weight, dietary restrictions or preferences, or ethnic origin. However, it does not extend to children under the age of two because their nutritional needs are different.

This outline was developed by the Department of Health to encourage healthy eating. It offers a macronutrient breakdown, and it is believed that if you follow this guide correctly, you can get all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs for optimal nutrition. This is very helpful in reducing the risk of nutritional deficiencies, which can lead to a number of health issues.

Nutritional deficiencies are well known for causing:

  • Digestive problems
  • Hair, skin, and nail problems
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Mood swings
  • Poor bone health
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Fertility problems

If you’re concerned about your vitamin and mineral intake, it’s a good idea to examine your diet. Nutrition2change will analyse your diet and detect nutritional deficiencies, including a comprehensive report as well as a risk assessment.

The Eatwell Guide food groups and percentages

Having a breakdown and intake recommendations for each type of food is very useful because it encourages you to consume a variety of foods rather than eating the same foods every day.

We’ve listed dietary guidelines and percentage intake for each food group below.

Fruit and vegetables (green)

Everybody knows how important fruit and vegetables are right? And yet, we still don’t eat enough of them.

You should eat 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day. For instance, you can have 2 portions of fruit and 3 portions of vegetables as a side dish to your main meals.

This can include any type of fruit and vegetable, you can choose from fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced.

One portion of fruit and vegetable can look like this:

  • 1 apple
  • 1 banana
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
  • 30g of dried fruit
  • 150ml of fruit smoothie

Fruit juice and smoothies should be kept to no more than 150ml per day because they usually contain a lot of sugars.

Starchy carbohydrates (yellow)

Starchy carbohydrates like rice, pasta, and potatoes are a really important part of a healthy diet and should make up one-third of the food we eat. This is approximately 45-50% of your total daily calories. If you are uncertain about how to calculate calories and break them down between each macronutrient then take a look at our guide to mastering macros and calories.

Try to choose carbohydrates that are higher in fibre, and this includes foods that are wholegrain, wholewheat, or the ‘brown’ varieties. This means you could have:

  • Breakfast: Oats or wholegrain breakfast cereal
  • Lunch: Sandwich on a wholemeal or seeded bread
  • Dinner: Brown rice or potatoes with skin

Some people are afraid of carbs because they think they will make them fat, but this is not the case. Carbohydrates have a thermogenic effect, which means they help you lose weight by speeding up your metabolism. If you are sensitive to fibre, you may feel bloated or have digestive issues, but apart from that, carbs are very helpful for weight loss.

Dairy and alternatives (blue)

Try to have some milk and dairy food, or dairy alternatives if you are vegetarian or vegan. Dairy intake should make up one-third of the food we eat too.

Products like cheese, yoghurt, or fromage frais are great choices. These are great sources of protein, vitamins, and certain minerals like calcium. Calcium is vital for keeping our bones healthy and strong.

Some dairy products can be high in fat and saturated fat. There are different types of fats but saturated fats can be unhealthy and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke.

Try to choose from low-fat varieties where you can. For instance, the 1% fat milk or reduced-fat cheese and use a smaller amount of the full-fat varieties.

However, be careful when choosing ‘low fat’ options as these can be high in sugars, always make sure to check food labels.

With the dairy alternatives, make sure to choose from unsweetened and calcium-fortified version which are better options.

Protein (pink)

Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, and meat amongst others are sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals. The Department of Health recommends that 15% of your total daily calories should come from protein. This is approximately 1g of protein per 1kg of bodyweight.

Aim to have a source of protein with most if not every meal, but try not to eat more than 2 portions (2 x 140g) of oily fish per week. Oily fish include salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, and many more. The reason why you should limit your intake of oily is that they can be high in toxins and pollutants found in waters.

Some meats, such as pork and beef, are high in fat, especially saturated fat. To cut down on fat, select lean options or remove any excess fat or skin from the meat. Even when cooking, strive to use less oil; grilling might be a better choice.

Pulses, which include beans, peas, and lentils are great vegetarian and vegan alternatives. They are low in fat, high in fibre, protein, and a number of vitamins and minerals. Other vegetable-based protein sources include legumes, seeds, tofu, bean curd, and mycoprotein.

Oils and spreads (purple)

Oils and spreads should be consumed in small amounts, but they are an essential part of a healthy diet. However, most of us seem to choose foods that are high in saturated fats, and this may be the reason why oils and fats got the bad rep in the first place.

Aim to choose healthier oils and spreads that contain more unsaturated fats. These are in liquid form and are derived from plant sources. This includes vegetable oil, rapeseed oil, and olive oil.

Making these healthy swaps can make a huge difference to your health, and may help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.

Foods high in fat, salt and sugars

This is not part of healthy eating, but it is part of the Eatwell guide because having these kinds of foods reduces the risk of binge eating and severe cravings. This is particularly useful if you are looking to lose weight and eating in a calorie deficit.

Products included within this food section include chocolate, cakes, biscuits, butter, fizzy drinks ice creams and even crisps.

Try to eat these less often and in smaller amounts as they are high in energy, salt, and sugars. Eating too much salt may cause bloating, severe thirst, and a temporary rise in blood pressure.

Water and hydration

Water and hydration are very important to regulate body temperature and to obtain a good environment for all the biological processes that occur within the body.

Try to drink 6-8 glasses or 1.5-2 litres of fluid per day. This includes things like water, milk, tea, coffee, fruit juice, and smoothies. However, make sure to limit smoothies to 150ml per day as they are high in sugars.

In addition, try to limit alcohol to no more than 14 units per week, this is the alcohol limits outlined for both men and women.

How to use the Eatwell guide and create the perfect balanced meal?

The Eatwell Guide categorises the foods and beverages we consume into five distinct categories. Choose a variety of foods from each of the food groups to ensure that you get the full range of nutrients your body needs to remain healthy and function properly.

So, how would you use it to create the perfect balanced meal?

If we take a look at all the information that the Eatwell guide provides, we can easily create a healthy and balanced meal. Take a look below at an Eatwell plate we’ve created and portions size recommendations.

eatwell plate

The above Eatwell plate presents the different components of a healthy and balanced meal. The portions sizes vary based on your daily calories and your body composition, but for an average person, the portions sizes can look like this:

  • 1-2 palms of protein
  • 1-2 fists of vegetables
  • 1-2 cupped hands of carbs
  • 1-2 thumbs of healthy fats

So, this is what a healthy meal looks like, but how can you tailor this to your body? You’ll need to make sure to calculate your calories and divide these calories amongst macronutrients accordingly. Check out our comprehensive guide to healthy eating which helps you calculate calories, macronutrients and even provides 10 healthy and delicious recipes as well as a 7-day sample meal plan.

Eatwell-friendly and balanced recipes

You can also take a look at our everyday healthy recipe book which presents healthy and easy to make recipes for everyday use!

Summary

The Eatwell Guide categorises the foods and beverages we consume into five distinct categories. Eating a mixture of these food categories helps you achieve optimum nutrition and helps the body feel its best. You can take a look at the government recommendations for micronutrients here which outline requirements for different age groups.

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