What's new about the Eatwell Guide?

There’s now an updated version of the UK’s healthy eating model. The Eatwell Guide replaces the Eatwell Plate we have been using since 2007. Our heart health dietitian Tracy Parker explains the differences. 

The Eatwell Guide 2016

The Eatwell Guide has incorporated the latest scientific research (particularly around carbohydrates and fibre to ensure advice and support provided to the public by nutrition advisors is current and accurate.

Like the old Eatwell Plate, the new Eatwell Guide shows the different types of food we should eat and in what proportions to have a healthy balanced diet, but there are some important differences.  

1. There’s a new name

The Eatwell plate has been renamed the Eatwell Guide. This is because consumer research around the development of the new guide found that the new name better reflects its purpose - a guide to a healthy diet. Removing the word plate, as well as removing the knife and fork, also makes it clearer that the guidelines are based on your overall diet rather than something to achieve at every meal.

2. Foods high in fat, sugar and salt have been removed from the main image 

The Eatwell Guide 2016 - Fat, salt and sugar

Most of us need to cut down on the amount of high fat, salt and sugar foods we eat, such as chocolate, cake, sugar sweetened drinks, butter and crisps. These foods used to be in the purple section of the plate, but now sit outside the main image.

This has been done to reduce confusion – before some people thought their place on the plate meant that they needed to be eaten for health.

It also emphasises the message that they are not a necessary part of a healthy diet and should only be consumed occasionally and in small amounts.

A colour coded front of pack label has also been added to the guide to make it easier to choose foods lower in fat, salt and sugar when shopping.

3. The purple section only contains ‘oils and spreads’ and is much smaller The Eatwell Guide - oils and spreads

Before, there were a range of fatty foods in this section, but the new guide takes a clearer view on the difference between saturated and unsaturated fat. Some fat is needed in a healthy balanced diet, but most of us are eating too much saturated fat.

For heart health, saturated fat (like that from meat sources, dairy and butter) should be swapped for unsaturated fat (such as vegetable oil and olive oils, nut oil, avocadoes and olives). The small size of the purple section reflects the fact that all oils and spreads are still high in fat and contain a lot of calories, so these should only be consumed in small amounts.

4. Fruit juice has been removed from the fruit and vegetables section

This is because fruit juice and smoothies are a source of free sugars, which we need to have less of. However, they still count towards one of your 5-A-Day, as they make a significant contribution to vitamin C intake, but should be limited to a combined total of 150ml per day. 

5. It’s less about meat

The Eatwell Guide 2016 - protein

The pink section, which used to be called ‘Meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein’ is now called ‘Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins.’ This is to encourage us to eat more beans and pulses and less red and processed meat, and aim for two portions of sustainably sourced fish, one of which should be oily.

This shows the importance of non-meat protein, such as beans, lentils and soya products, in a sustainable, healthy diet. They also generally have a lower environmental impact than meat. Research also shows that red and processed meat should be limited to reduce risk of colorectal cancer.

6. We’re supposed to eat more fruit and veg, and starchy carbohydrates

The Eatwell Guide - fruits and vegetables

The fruit and veg section of the plate has increased to 39 per cent and the starchy carbohydrates section to 37 per cent. Both were previously 33 per cent. This is mainly to help us meet the increased fibre recommendation of 30g a day.

Currently on average we only consume around 19 grams of fibre per day in the UK, less than two thirds of the recommendation. The advice is to base our meals around these foods, and to choose wholegrain varieties of starchy carbohydrates where possible.

What does more fibre look like? It’s 5 portions of fruit and veg, plus two whole-wheat breakfast biscuits, and two thick slices of wholemeal bread as well as a large baked potato with the skin on.

This does fall short of our current intakes, but research carried out on the new guidelines has ensured that the changes are realistic and not too difficult for us to achieve. 

  • Read more about getting your 5-a-day.

7. There’s less dairy The Eatwell Guide 2016 -  dairy

The dairy and dairy alternatives section has been halved in size from 15 per cent to 8 per cent and the emphasis is on choosing lower fat and sugar options. By following this model, we can still get our calcium requirements from the whole diet. Non-dairy sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables and plant based proteins such as tofu, almonds and beans. This ties in with the  new sustainability message of choosing more non meat protein foods for environmental reasons.

8. There’s advice on how much to drinkThe Eatwell Guide - Glass of water

Previously there was no mention of drinks.  A new hydration message, depicted by a glass outside the main image, includes specific recommendations to aim for 6-8 glasses of fluid per day as well as suggesting ideal drinks - water, low fat milk and sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee, as well as limiting fruit juice and smoothies to 150ml a day. This reinforces the message that keeping hydrated is part of a healthy diet, but that drinks also contribute to our calorie intake.

9. There’s daily calorie guidance

For the first time, an energy requirement message has also been included. There was no comparable information on the previous Eatwell Plate, but it now states that women should generally aim for 2000Kcal and men for 2500Kcal.


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