This guide provides a summary of government dietary advice and nutrient recommendations throughout the life course.
Figure 1: The Eatwell Guide
Fruit and Vegetables
- Over a third of the diet should come from fruit and vegetables
- Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. A portion is 80 g or one of the following:
- a slice of a large fruit such as a melon
- a whole piece of fruit such as an apple or banana
- two pieces of small fruit such as satsumas
- three tablespoons of cooked vegetables
- a bowl of mixed salad
- Limit the consumption of 100% fruit and vegetable juices and/or smoothies to a combined total of 150 ml (1 portion) per day and consume with meals to reduce the risk of tooth decay
- 30 g (1 heaped tablespoon) of dried fruit (such as raisins and apricots) also counts as 1 portion. Consume at mealtimes rather than as a between meal snack to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
Potatoes, Bread, Rice, Pasta, and Other Starchy Carbohydrates
- Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, or other starchy carbohydrates, choosing wholegrain versions where possible. This includes wholewheat pasta, brown rice, or simply leaving the skins on potatoes
- Wholegrain food contains more fibre than white or refined starchy food, and often more of other nutrients too.
Dairy and Alternatives
- Have some dairy and alternatives, choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
- Look at labels and choose milks lower in fat, such as skimmed, 1% or semi-skimmed; yoghurts lower in fat and sugar; and cheeses lower in fat and salt
- When buying dairy alternatives like soya drinks, go for unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions.
Beans, Pulses, Fish, Eggs, Meat, and Other Proteins
- Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, and other proteins (including two portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
- Beans, peas, and lentils (which are all types of pulses) are good alternatives to meat because they’re naturally very low in fat, and they’re high in fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Try adding them to soups, stews, and ragùs to make your meal go further
- Aim for at least two portions (2 x 140 g) of fish a week, including a portion of oily fish. Oily fish includes salmon, sardines, mackerel, and kippers
- On average eat no more than 70 g red and processed meat a day. Processed meat includes sausages, bacon, cured meats, and reformed meat products
- Some types of meat are high in fat, particularly saturated fat. When buying meat:
- choose lean cuts of meat
- go for leaner mince
- cut the fat off of meat and the skin off of chicken
- try to grill or steam meat and fish instead of frying.
Oil and Spreads
- Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts
- Although some fat in the diet is essential, generally we are eating too much saturated fat
- Unsaturated fats are healthier fats that are usually from plant sources and in liquid form as oil. This includes vegetable oil, rapeseed oil, and olive oil; as well as spreads made from these oils
- All types of fat are high in energy and should be limited in the diet.
Foods High in Fat, Salt, and Sugar
- Eat less often and in small amounts
- This includes products such as chocolate, cakes, biscuits, full-sugar soft drinks, butter, cream, and ice-cream
- These foods are not needed in the diet and so, if included, should only be consumed infrequently and in small amounts
- Check the label and avoid foods which are high in fat, salt, and sugar.
Aim to Drink Six to Eight Glasses of Fluid Every Day
- Water, lower fat milk, and sugar-free drinks including tea, and coffee all count
- 100% fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies also count towards your fluid consumption, although they are a source of free sugars and so you should limit consumption to no more than a combined total of 150 ml per day
- Swap sugary soft drinks for diet, sugar-free, or no added sugar varieties to reduce your sugar intake in a simple step.
- Food labels can help you to choose between foods and to pick those that are lower in energy, fat, saturated fat, sugars, and salt
- Where colour coded labels are used you can tell at a glance if they are high, medium, or low in fat, saturated fat, sugars, and salt
- For a healthier choice, try to pick products with more greens and ambers and fewer reds.
Daily Energy Requirements
- We all need different amounts of energy (or calories) from food to be a healthy weight. How much you need depends on a number of factors, including how active you are. Whenever we eat more than our body needs, we put on weight
- The average energy requirement for a man is about 10.5 MJ (2500 kcal); 8.4MJ (2000 kcal) for a woman. For more information on nutrient requirements please see the Government dietary recommendations
- By convention:[A]
- breakfast should provide about 1.7 MJ/400 kcal of your energy
- lunch about 2.5 MJ/600 kcal
- evening meal about 2.5 MJ/600 kcal
- leaving 1.7 MJ/400 kcal for all the snacks and drinks consumed between meals.
- Most of us can get all the nutrients we need by consuming a healthy, balanced, and varied diet. However, there are certain groups of the population for whom certain dietary supplements are recommended.
- Women who could become pregnant or who are planning a pregnancy should take a dietary supplement of 400 mcg of folic acid every day from before conception until the twelth week of pregnancy, to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida
- Women who have an increased risk of having a pregnancy affected by an NTD, including those who had a previous NTD-affected pregnancy and those with a family history of NTDs, are advised to take a higher dose of 5 mg of folic acid each day until the twelth week of pregnancy
- In addition to taking folic acid supplements, all pregnant women should eat folate rich foods such as green vegetables, some fruits (oranges for example), and fortified breakfast cereals.
- It is recommended that between the months of October and March everyone aged 5 years and above including pregnant and breastfeeding women should consider taking a supplement containing 10 mcg of vitamin D per day.[B] There are separate recommendations for children from birth to 4 years of age
- Between late March/early April and the end of September, the majority of people aged 5 years and above will probably obtain sufficient vitamin D from sunlight when they are outdoors so they might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months
- However, some groups of people will not obtain enough vitamin D from sunlight because they have very little or no sunshine exposure. People from these groups should take a daily supplement containing 10 mcg vitamin D throughout the year. They are:
- people who are seldom outdoors such as frail or housebound individuals and those who are confined indoors, for example, in institutions such as care homes
- people who habitually wear clothes that cover most of their skin while outdoors
- People from minority ethnic groups with dark skin such as those with African, African-Caribbean, and South Asian origin might not get enough vitamin D from sunlight in summer, so they should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 mcg vitamin D throughout the year.
Vitamins A and C
- Infants and young children aged between 6 months and 5 years should also be given a supplement containing vitamins A and C. Babies under 6 months of age should not need supplements containing vitamin A and C as their body stores of nutrients (obtained from the mother during pregnancy) and breast milk or infant formula intake should be adequate to meet their needs. Formula fed infants should not need vitamin supplements until they are having less than 500 ml of formula a day, as formula is fortified with vitamins and minerals
- Children who have a good appetite and eat a wide variety of foods, including fruit and vegetables, might not need vitamin supplements. Parents who are concerned about their child’s diet should talk to their GP or health visitor for further advice.
- The Eatwell Guide, associated reports and supporting dietary messages are available here
- Government dietary recommendations for food energy and nutrients for males and females aged 1-18 years and 19+ years are also available via this link. This includes recommendations for food energy, macronutrients, micronutrients, salt, free sugar and dietary fibre.
[A] The information provided is based on the average energy requirements for a woman (2000 kcal per day)
[B] This is due to the fact that vitamin D is only found in a small number of foods and so it might be difficult to get enough from foods that naturally contain vitamin D and/or fortified foods alone. This recommendation refers to the average amount of vitamin D consumed over a period of time (e.g. a week) and takes account of day to day variations in vitamin D intake