Achieving a balanced diet

To help us achieve a healthy and balanced diet, we should follow the advice from the Eatwell Guide regarding each of the five food groups.

Fruit and vegetables

This section covering fruit and vegetables is one of the two largest components of the Eatwell Guide.

It is recommended that fruit and vegetables make up approximately one third of our diet.

Fruit and vegetables provide us with essential nutrients that help our bodies fight disease. They are high in vitamin C, which helps our immune system.

Fruit and vegetables also contain antioxidant properties that protect our cells from damage, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancers.

We should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. A portion can be made up of each of the following:

  • One slice of large fruit – e.g., melon or pineapple
  • One piece of medium sized fruit – e.g., banana
  • One cup of small fruit – e.g., grapes

Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates

Many of us include foods from this group in the majority of our meals.

Carbohydrates are macronutrients, which are needed in large quantities by the body. Foods from this group give our bodies the energy we need to function.

Ideally, we should choose wholegrain or higher fibre versions of carbohydrates with less added, fat, salt and sugar. Starchy foods contain less calories than fatty foods – less than half the calories per gram.

Oils and spreads

This is the smallest section of the Eatwell Guide. We should only use oils and spreads in small amounts because of their saturated fat content.

Dairy and alternatives

This group includes foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese.

Although foods from this group are high in protein and calcium, they are also often high in fat. We should therefore choose low fat versions and be aware of added sugars. We are encouraged to eat three portions from this food group each day.

Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins

This group provides us with a range of nutrients, particularly protein. We need protein for the growth, repair and efficient working of all body tissues.

Non-dairy sources of protein include foods such as nuts, pulses and meat alternatives such as Quorn and tofu.

We should eat less red meat and more beans and pulses.

We should also try to eat two portions of fish (2 x 140g) per week, one of which should be an oily fish such as mackerel.