‘Balancing your diet’

Food Groups


As a guide to healthy eating, make sure you have foods from each food group:


Fruit and Vegetables

A minimum of 5 portions a day are recommended.  This includes dried, tinned and juiced.  You cannot include the same fruit or vegetable twice, and potatoes do not count.  Try to get as many different colours of fruit and vegetables in your diet as possible as these will contribute an assortment of health promoting substances, which protect from cancers and heart disease.

When having a meal, about 2/5 of the plate should be made up of vegetables or salad, or half the plate if you are trying to lose weight.


Starchy foods

These are our staples and include potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, cassava, and sweet potato.  It is best to try and have the wholegrain variety which will contain more fibre.  The number of helpings of these will depend on your overall energy requirement.  When having a meal, they should make up 2/5ths of your plate.  An average man requires about 6 portions of the starchy foods a day. Carbohydrates should make up 50% of the calories from your diet.

Starchy foods help to fill you up without providing too many calories.  Wholegrain and unrefined starches also help to provide a long-term supply of energy which should stop you reaching for calorie rich snacks between meals



You only need 2-3 portions of this group a day which include meat, fish, cheese, eggs, nuts and beans.  When having a meal, the protein part should only take up about 1/5 of the plate. Proteins should make up around 15%-20% of the calories from your diet.



We need 3-4 helpings of these foods a day to ensure we get sufficient calcium in the diet.  If milk products are not tolerated, then you need to seek advice from a dietitian.  This group includes cheese, milk and yogurts. A portion is equivalent to 1 small pot of yogurt, 28g (1 oz) of cheese and 1/3 pint of milk.


Fats/oils and sugars

These include pastries, oils, jams, sweets, sugary foods, margarine and butter.  All these foods need to be kept to a minimum as they can lead to weight gain, but add little nutritional value.  Excess sugar can also contribute to dental caries, and excess fat can contribute to heart disease. Fats should make up no more than 35% of the calories from your diet.


Some oil is needed in the diet, but the amount required is very little.  Oils and fats can provide essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. Although weight for weight all oils and fats contribute the same number of calories, and are very calorie dense, some are better for heart health than others and, in small amount, may positively protect against heart disease. Such oils include the monosaturated fats found in olive oil, rapeseed oil, nuts and avocados. Fish oils are also beneficial to health, as are some seeds and rapeseed (canola) oil which contain a high percentage of omega 3 fats.


Trans and saturated fats found in cheaper margarines, cakes and pastries and fats derived from animal products, are particularly harmful to the heart and health.


The Eatwell Plate


This illustrates the proportions and type of food which constitutes a healthy diet over a period of time.




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