To celebrate World Health Day, we have a guest post from Jenny, a Dentistry Student at Newcastle University
This is the Eatwell Plate. It is a handy visual guide showing exactly how much each food group should contribute to what we eat on a daily basis to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
The plate is divided into the 5 main food groups we should consume every day:
- Fruit and vegetables – 40% of what you eat in a day.
- Pasta, potatoes, rice, bread and other starchy carbohydrates – 38% of daily food intake.
- Protein sources such as beans, eggs, meat, pulses and fish – 12% of daily food intake.
- Milk and dairy (including dairy alternatives) – 8% of daily food intake.
- Oils and spreads – 1% of daily food intake.
You may have noticed that these percentages only add up to 99%. This is because the final 1% is allocated for high fat, salt and sugar foods such as fizzy drinks or chocolate bars. These food stuffs should rarely be consumed and only in small amounts.
As well as that, we should be drinking 6-8 glasses of fluids every day. This includes water, low fat and low sugar milk, and fruit juice that is not from concentrate.
The balance displayed on the Eatwell Plate does not have to be achieved in every meal of the day but should be attained for what you eat overall in a day. With that said, let’s take a more in depth look at the food groups.
Fruit and vegetables
You should always try to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and familiarise yourself with how much of each fruit or vegetable contribute to one portion (e.g. 7 strawberries = 1 portion). This can be in the form of fresh, frozen, tinned or juiced fruit (although juiced or fruit smoothies should be limited to 150ml/day because they have higher sugar content than fresh fruit). Fruit and veg is a vital part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle because they contain a variety of vital minerals, vitamins and nutrients. For example, broccoli, spinach and lots of other green vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin C, great for maintaining strong bones, joints and to boost your immune system. Also, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and bananas are great sources of potassium, which helps to maintain healthy heart muscles.
Pasta, potatoes, rice, bread and other starchy carbohydrates
Every meal should be built on a starchy carbohydrate base, with wholegrain versions of pasta, rice and bread chosen when possible. Starchy carbohydrates are a very important source of energy because our bodies break down carbohydrates into sugars which are then converted into energy. They are also a source of calcium, iron, vitamin B and fibre, which aids digestion.
Protein is very important in building muscle strength and facilitating growth and repair in our bodies. To achieve correct protein intake, each week you should have two portions of fish, including one portion of oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel. This is because oily fish provides out bodies with the fatty acid, omega-3 and vitamin D, which help maintain a healthy heart.
Protein from red meats should be limited to less than 70g per day because high consumption of red and processed meats could increase risk of developing cancer in older individuals. However, red meats are an excellent source of iron which increases our blood’s ability to transport oxygen allowing us to be more active.
Milk and dairy
Dairy products and dairy alternatives (such as soya, oat or almond milk) are excellent sources of calcium which helps maintain strong bones and teeth. Dairy products include cheese, milk and yoghurt, although you should always pick products which are low in fat and sugar.
Oils and spreads
When it comes to choosing what to put on your toast in the morning, it is always better to use a spread that contains unsaturated fats, such as vegetable, olive and sunflower oils. The same applies to cooking oils. Unsaturated fats help protect our hearts and reduce cholesterol. Food stuffs with high fat content should be rarely consumed.
Finally, a few handy tips for a healthy and balanced meal:
- Everything in moderation – eating the recommended portions of each food group outlined by the Eatwell plate, will ensure you get all the vital daily vitamins, nutrients and minerals you need. Cutting out whole food groups (like carbohydrates) rather than improve your health will actually result in poor health effects such as tiredness and stomach upsets.
- Make your plate every colour of the rainbow – if your meal looks too beige or too much of one colour, you won’t be getting all the necessary micronutrients you need.
In the spirit of World Health Day, why don’t you take the opportunity to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and make your plate and Eatwell Plate.