ou’ll be happy to hear that you don’t have to give up all your favourite things to eat healthily – just cut down on one or two, and perhaps increase your intake of fruit, vegetables and healthy carbs.
Breaking food down into five major groups, the ‘eat well’ plate was created by leading UK nutritionists to show how much of each we should eat for a balanced, healthy diet.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Food Standards Agency.
Breads, cereals and potatoes (eat plenty)
Shopper’s tips: Cereals are not just what we have for breakfast, but also pasta, rice, oats, noodles, maize, millet and cornmeal to name but a few – the international or wholefood shelves in supermarkets have lots more to try out. Look for wholemeal, wholegrain or brown versions – they contain more fibre, and usually more vitamins and minerals than white (refined) varieties.
Cook’s tips: Avoid adding extra fat – bake or boil potatoes, butter bread thinly or use a low fat spread, and cut out creamy sauces with pasta – go for tasty tomato options instead.
Fruit and vegetables (eat plenty)
Shopper’s tips: As well as fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen or tinned versions are just as good, as are dried fruit, juices (but not fruit drinks and squashes), beans and pulses such as lentils and chickpeas.
Cook’s tips: Getting your 5 a day is easier than you think – just add a tomato to a bacon sandwich, or berries to your breakfast cereal and you’re off. A glass of fruit juice (150ml) or three heaped tablespoons of beans or pulses counts as one portion, but not more than that no matter how much more you have in a day. ‘Eating a rainbow’ – a meal of many colours such as red, orange and green vegetables – is a great way to get vital vitamins.
Milk and dairy (eat or drink moderate amounts)
Shopper’s tips: This group includes milk, cheese, yogurt and fromage frais – but not high fat butter and cream.
Cook’s tips: Try lower fat and light versions when you can – that way you’ll be getting the protein and calcium without the cholesterol.
Meat, fish and alternatives (eat moderate amounts)
Shopper’s tips: As well as meat and fish, our protein portion also includes eggs and vegetable sources like nuts, beans and pulses. Salami, sausages, bacon, burgers and pâtés all count here, as do frozen and canned fish, fish cakes and fingers.
Cook’s tips: Aim for two helpings of fish each week, including one of ‘oily’ fish such as salmon to get your omega 3. Try eating more low fat ‘veggie’ protein, like vegetarian meat substitute or lentils instead of beef in a bolognaise – or simply make an occasional meal of humble beans on toast.
Foods containing fat; foods and drinks containing sugar (eat sparingly)
Shopper’s tips: On the fats front we’re talking margarine, butter, spreads, cooking oils, salad dressings and mayonnaise as well as cream, ice cream, crisps, biscuits, cakes, chocolate, pastries, puddings, rich sauces and gravies.
Sugar can pop up in all things sweet – and in some things that may surprise you such as ready-made savoury sauces – so check the label before you buy.
Cook’s tips: This is the part of the plate to keep as small as possible. Use light or low fat versions where possible; try half-fat crème fraiche or low fat yogurt instead of cream; and a non-stick pan and oil spritzer could cut down on fat when you’re frying. And keep sweet treats as just that – a little something from time to time.
Or you could try using a low calorie sugar alternative such as SPLENDA®, giving you the taste but not the sugar so you can enjoy a little of what you fancy more often!
This page has been adapted from the Food Standards Agency guide 'The Balance of Good Health'. More information is available at www.eatwell.gov.uk