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Welcome to the Health Defence Blog - a blog about health, wellness and a healthier you. Brought to you by the Health Defence team at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, you'll find up-to-date information on a range of topics from what's in your food to the latest advice on e-cigarettes!
Megan - Health Promotion Specialist
July 17, 2016
What is the ‘Eatwell Guide’ and why do we need it?
The first UK dietary guidelines were published in 1994 as a model for how to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Fast forward to 2007 when the circular image we’ve come to know was renamed as ‘the eatwell plate’.
And finally this year ‘the eatwell plate’ had a make-over. It was reviewed by a large panel of nutrition experts and launched by Public Health England as the ‘Eatwell Guide’ in March.
This new guide no longer includes a knife and fork, which emphasises that we don’t need to strictly follow the model at every meal, but to try and have a balance of food groups over the whole day or week. Following the principles of the ‘Eatwell Guide’ can help us to achieve a healthy weight and get all of the nutrients that we need to stay healthy.
The new Eatwell Guide - click to enlarge image
What's new and what's off the menu?
This section remains relatively unchanged reflecting the '5 A Day' target for fruit and vegetables. Most of us still don’t eat enough fruit and veg, which should make up almost 40% of our daily food intake. One small change is around fruit juice – see the fluids section for advice on this! We could look a little bit closer and make sure that at least 3 of our '5 A Day' are vegetables, as they contain less natural sugars than fruits.
We need them but in the right quantities (about a third of each meal) and the right type (i.e. wholegrain or higher fibre options). We say goodbye to the refined, white carbs from this section – cheerio!
Aka ‘Oils and Spreads’ has had an overhaul to remove all ‘foods and drinks high in fat and sugar’ OFF the plate! This is to reflect that some healthy fats are an essential part of a healthy diet – namely un-saturated fats such as vegetable oils (e.g. olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils) and lower fat spreads. This section has also become a lot skinnier, reducing in size from 7% to 1% of total daily intake.
The new description here advises us to choose dairy products and alternatives (e.g. soya products) that are not only lower in fat, but very importantly lower in sugar too!
This protein-rich group has a number of noteworthy changes including a mention of food sustainability, reduction in red meat consumption and confirms the importance of fish and omega-3’s.
Beans and pulses: these two fibre-friendly heroes have always had a presence on the plate, but their importance has been boosted, not only due to their high nutritional value but also for their role in food sustainability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Meat: not only does the guide mention red meat, but focuses explicitly on eating less processed meats – yes that’s you salami, ham, bacon and sausages! These high-fat, high-salt meats aren’t essential for a healthy diet (hence why they don't feature on the plate), but if you choose to eat them, should be eaten in small quantities and less frequently.
Often making the headlines, foods that are high in fat and sugar have now been pushed well and truly OFF the plate. This is to show that these foods (especially those high in saturated fat) are also not essential for a healthy diet. If you choose to eat these foods, eat them less often and in smaller amounts.
Welcome to the table! This reminds us to check food labels at the supermarket which can help to make quick decisions about the fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt in our food. For more on food label reading, check out our blog article here.
Another new addition! Yes, it’s important to stay well hydrated, but it’s also really important that calories (energy) from drinks are included in our daily energy intake too – sugar-sweetened beverages such as fizzy drinks have little nutritional benefit but can provide a significant amount of calories (for example, one can of fizzy drink can provide up to 7% of your total energy requirements for the day)!
You’ll also see here a sensible limit for fruit juice/smoothies (no more than 150ml per day) – while they contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, they also tend to be high in natural sugars.
The last addition – this calorie recommendation includes both food and fluids. Most adults in the UK consume more calories (or energy) than they actually need – which is why almost 2 in 3 of us are considered to be overweight or obese! Energy requirements will vary between individuals and depend on how active they are – but as a rough guide, women should aim for about 2,000 calories per day and men 2,500 calories (kcal).
While no model of eating is perfect, the 'Eatwell Guide' gives an evidence-based, (relatively) easy-to-follow picture of what our daily intake should be based on. What we eat does vary from day to day. So as long as most of the time we’re making conscious decisions to eat healthier and move more, then we’re doing a good job! And at the end of the day, the 'Eatwell Guide' is just that, a guide.
Read the CHSS ‘Healthy Eating’ factsheet for more information or phone our Advice Line Nurses to answer any questions you have about making healthy lifestyle choices to help prevent heart disease and stroke – freephone 0808 801 0899.
***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.