This food plate picture makes healthy eating easier to understand by showing the types and proportions of foods needed to make a well-balanced and healthy diet.
Bread, Cereals & Potatoes – rice, noodles, oats, breakfast cereals, pasta, sweet potatoes, yams, beans, lentils and dishes made from maize, millet and cornmeal also come into this group.
Base your meals on these kinds of foods, which should make up about one third of your diet. Choose wholegrain, wholemeal, brown or 'high fiber' varieties wherever possible. Generally people eat less than they should from this food group, so make sure you eat lots! Try serving larger portions of these foods at mealtimes by, for example, having more rice or potatoes.
People often think that starchy foods are particularly fattening. This isn't true, but starchy foods can become fattening if they're either served or cooked with fat. For example, it's the margarine or butter we spread on bread, the cream or cheese sauce we add to pasta or the oil that we use for frying that makes them fattening. So cut down on these added fats rather than the starchy foods themselves.
Milk & Dairy Foods – milk, cheese, and yogurt. For a healthy diet most people should eat moderate amounts of these foods. Low fat versions are better for general healthy eating and if you're trying to lose weight. Try semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, low fat yogurt (0.1% fat or less), and reduced fat cheeses.
Fatty & Sugary Foods – A healthy diet means eating and drinking less of these types of food. Eat foods containing fat sparingly and look out for the low fat alternatives. Foods and drinks containing sugar should not be eaten too often as they can contribute to tooth decay. This group includes margarine and butter, cooking oils and sugar, so it means fewer fried foods, biscuits, pastries, cakes and sugary drinks and less mayonnaise, cream, chocolate and other confections.
Lean Meat, Poultry, Fish and Alternatives - for most people a healthy diet means eating only moderate amounts of meat, fish and alternatives such as lentils, nuts, beans and eggs, and choosing lower fat versions when you can.
Trim visible fat from meat, choose lean cuts wherever possible and remove skin from chicken before cooking. Meat such as bacon and salami, and meat products such as sausages and hamburgers are all relatively high fat choices, so try to keep these to a minimum.
Beans, such as canned baked beans are a good low fat source of protein.
Aim to eat at least two portions of fish a week. These can be fresh, frozen or canned. Each week, one of these portions should be oily fish such as sardines, salmon, pilchard, mackerel, herring, trout or fresh tuna (not canned tuna although this is still a good source of protein and some vitamins).*
*If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or thinking of becoming pregnant in the next year, you should avoid eating shark, swordfish and marlin, and limit the amount of tuna you eat because of the amount of mercury in these fish.
Fruit and Vegetables - fresh, frozen or canned 100% juices and dried fruits. Aim for at least 5 portions from this group each day.
A portion is:
- 3 heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables
- 1 cereal bowl of mixed salad
- 1 piece of large fruit such as apples or pears or
- 2 smaller fruits such as plums
- 1 handful of fruits such as grapes or strawberries
- 1 tablespoon of raisins or 3 dried apricots
- 1 small glass 100% fruit or vegetable juice
Beans and other vegetables count only once per day, however much you eat, as do dried fruits and fruit juices. Because they are considered a starchy food, potatoes don't count towards the '5 A DAY' target.