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Future Fit Traning

What Is the Eat Well Guide of the UK Government

This article will cover a breakdown of the Eatwell Guide from the UK Government and show how it can be used as an everyday tool to improve healthy eating choices.

We all know that eating a balanced diet and getting the right nutrients into our bodies is a great way to ensure we remain healthy physically and mentally. Eating a balanced diet can contribute to our overall healthy lifestyles and can impact our long-term health, including reducing the risks of certain cancers as well as heart disease.

In March 2016, Public Health England (now UK Health) published a new and improved Eatwell guide, replacing the Eatwell Plate, with suggestions and guides on how to eat healthier, make better food choices, and practice portion control for the week. This was a guide that was adaptable to most people regardless of weight, ethnic origins or food preferences, and forms the cornerstone of a lot of healthy eating teaching and practices within the UK. You can read our previous blog reacting to the new Eatwell Guide and its changes here.

Check out the main breakdown of the Eatwell Guide here to know what the UK Government recommends for your daily intake of food to practise a healthy lifestyle.

A cartoon drawing of a pie chart split into the segments of the eatwell plate including vegetables, dairy, protein and carbohydrates

What is the Eatwell Guide?

The Eatwell Guide is a document from the UK government aimed at helping to educate people about the different food groups, the portions to aim for over the period of a day or a week, and how to use this guide for a healthy balanced diet. This was changed from the Eatwell Plate (the model in use since 2007) as it better reflected the purpose of a guide to healthy eating for a total diet, rather than on a meal-by-meal basis. It’s a twelve-page document, covering the essential food groups in a closer look, how the guide works, as well as food labelling and advice on cutting out or down on certain types of foods (such as food high in fat salt and sugar).

The Eatwell Guide also covers the government and registered dietitian-approved caloric intake and the top eight tips for eating well (all taken from the Eatwell Guide document available here):

  1.  Base your meals on starchy foods – selecting wholemeal or wholegrain options wherever possible.
  2. Eat lots of fruit and veg – at least five portions every day.
  3. Eat more fish – recommended at least two portions, including a portion of oily fish each week.
  4. Cut down on saturated fats and sugar.
  5. Eat less salt – no more than six grams a day for adults.
  6. Get active and be a healthy weight.
  7. Don’t get thirsty – drink six to eight cups of fluid a day.
  8. Don’t skip breakfast.

How Does It Work?

The Eatwell Guide is a fully descriptive document. As mentioned earlier, it isn’t just about knowing portion sizes and which foods fall into which categories, it is a complete guide to help readers eat a more balanced diet and educate them on the food choices they make. Each segment in the guide is reflective of the different food groups, and the guide recommends how much of your diet should be made up of each food group.  The guide recommends using the tools included to be used:

  • When deciding what to cook and when buying groceries.
  • When eating out or having a takeaway.
  • When cooking at home.

While this is recommended by UK Health, it acknowledges the limitations of the guide for those on a strict, doctor or approved dietician-recommended diet. You should consult your doctor or dietician if you’re considering a drastic change to your diet.


nutrition for sport and exercise


The below recommendations come directly from the Eatwell Guide.

Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations

Fruit and vegetables are one of the food groups that we all know and appreciate how important they are to our healthy eating. The Eatwell Guide recommends at least five portions of fruit and veg a day, and that this food group should take up at least just over a third of all food that we eat.

Fruits and vegetables are very important for your body. They are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals and help nourish your body. These nutritious foods are very beneficial especially for people with health problems, for example, green veggies are great for people with migraines as they are loaded with vitamin B2.

If this sounds easier said than done, you can improve the amount you eat by changing up the types of fruit and veg you’re having. For example, homemade fruit juice could include three or four different fruits totally one portion, including ones you may not eat as part of your regular diet.

The portion sizes are equivalent to 80g, or one whole fruit such as an apple, banana, or orange. You can also include 30g of dried fruit or 150ml of fruit juice or smoothie, so this needn’t be restricted to just pieces of fruit and veg.

Tips from the Eatwell Guide:

  • Avoid adding sugar or sauce to fruits to limit added sugar intake.
  • Use bulkier vegetables such as peppers or mushrooms to add substance to dinners to help you feel fuller for longer.
  • Freeze certain veg or fruits to keep a supply in your kitchen always.
  • Take a small bag of fruit (dried or fresh) as a snack instead of chocolate or crisps to improve your chance of getting five a day.
Red berries in a bowl on a wooden surface


Carbohydrate and Starch Recommendations

A common misconception is that carbohydrates are bad for you. In fact, starchy foods such as potatoes, rice and pasta are hugely important to a balanced diet. They should make up a third of the food we eat and should be the basis of many dinners.

However, there is a tendency for these foods to be high in fat, salt, and sugar, so it’s important to check the labels of premade foods and make the healthiest choice possible. Swapping to wholemeal and wholegrain rather than white and processed carbs is better for your digestion.

Tips from the Eatwell Guide:

  • Try to avoid adding in extra salts and fats when preparing starchy foods (e.g. fats on roast potatoes or creamy sauces on pasta) as these contain a higher amount of calories.
  • Choose high fibre versions of carbohydrates.
  • Look for options that contain less added fats, salts, and sugars.
  • Choose wholegrain options to help you feel fuller for longer and avoid snacking on unhealthy high sugar carbohydrates.


Dairy Recommendations

The dairy recommendations are one of the biggest changes from the original Eatwell Plate to the Eatwell Guide. This has been halved in size from 15% to 8% of your recommended intake. There is also a higher recommendation for dairy alternatives such as soya.

Dairy is essential for calcium intake and is also a good source of protein. It’s good to have dairy in your diet if you can, including cheese and yoghurt. However, many dairy products contain saturated fats, so it’s good to read the labels to check the best alternatives to keep the fat content down.

Tips from the Eatwell Guide:

  • Try and choose low-fat options, such as 1% milk or skimmed rather than full fat.
  • Choose unsweetened, calcium-rich versions of dairy products.
  • Choose reduced-fat cheese.
  • Use low-fat alternatives to sauces such as adding plain yoghurt instead of cream.
babybel cheeses opened on a board with a jalapeno pepper on the side


Proteins and Pulses Recommendations

This section of the Eatwell Guide has also seen a large change from the Eatwell Plate, focussing more on beans, pulses, and fish than meat to encourage a reduction in red and processed meats in everyday diets, which can be linked to colorectal cancers. Non-meat proteins are also central to this section rather than meat as this is more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

The Eatwell Guide recommends at least two portions of fish a week as part of your protein intake (one of which should be an oily fish). The guide also recommends swapping red for white meat where possible, such as swapping steak for chicken breast or having turkey mince. The recommended portion size is no more than 70g a day of red or processed meat (sausages, bacon, and cured meats).

Tips from the Eatwell Guide:

  • Include as many pulses instead of meat protein products in your diet as possible. These are lower in fats and count towards your five a day!
  • Ask for leaner meats where possible and choose low per cent fat options.
  • Cut the skin off and trim the fat when preparing meat at home.
  • Try grilling meat or boiling where possible for healthier preparation rather than frying.


To Sum Up

The Eatwell Guide can form an essential part of the decision-making process when choosing the foods you eat, how you prepare them, and foods to cut back on to maintain a healthy weight and healthy lifestyle. Consider the types of fat you consume and opt for less healthy options in small amounts. This shouldn’t be too restrictive, and you can adapt the Eatwell guide to meet your needs if you’re on a restricted diet from your GP.

If you want to know more about how you can gain a higher level of knowledge about healthy eating and weight loss, check out our nutrition courses:

Level 3 Nutrition and Weight Management

Level 4 RSPH Nutrition Course

Level 5 Nutrition Course: Advanced Nutrient Metabolism

Level 5 Nutrition Course: Nutrition and Immunity