Sara is Science Director at the BNF.

Public Health England has launched its Eatwell Guide – the UK healthy eating model. This describes the different types of foods and drinks we should consume – and in what proportions – to have a healthy, balanced diet. It replaces the Eatwell Plate that we have been using for this purpose since 2007. The new healthy eating model is based on the UK’s food-based guidelines, including the recent recommendations on free sugars and dietary fibre.

The Guide shows the proportions of food groups and how much of each we should be eating daily. According to PHE these breakdown roughly into: starchy 37%; fruit/veg 39%; oils 1%; beans, pulses, meat 12%; dairy 8%; occasional foods 3%.

The main messages are to:
*eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day;
*base our meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates; choosing wholegrain and higher fibre versions where possible;
*have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks); choosing lower fat and lower sugar options;
*eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (such as tofu and mycoprotein), including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily;
*choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts;
*drink 6-8 cups/glasses of fluid a day; choosing lower sugar options;
*If foods high in fat, salt and/or sugars are part of the diet, they should be consumed less often and in small amounts.

So what’s changed?

The UK healthy eating model used to be called the Eatwell Plate. The model is now called a ‘guide’ rather than a ‘plate’ and no longer includes a knife and fork to emphasise that it relates to the diet as a whole rather than every meal. Foods that are high in fat, salt and sugars now sit outside the main image as these should be consumed occasionally and in small amounts. Although these foods add palatability, they aren’t an essential part of a healthy diet.

Another key change from the older model is the inclusion of a very small section of unsaturated oils and spreads (plant/vegetables oils like rapeseed, olive and nut oils and lower fat spreads). Some fat is essential for health but, while unsaturated fats and oils are healthier choices, all fats are high in calories so should be consumed in small amounts.


Keeping well hydrated is important but drinks contribute to our daily energy intake. The best choices of drinks (particularly for dental health) include water, low fat milks and sugar-free drinks including unsweetened tea and coffee. Specific advice is provided around fruit juice and smoothies which can count as one a day of the 5-a-day target but combined should be kept to maximum of 150ml/day as they provide free sugars.

The Guide also considers the important issue of environmental sustainability, emphasising the need for the population to get a greater proportion of its protein from plant sources like beans, pulses and eggs rather than animal sources such as red meat and to consume at least 2 portions of sustainably sourced fish a week.

As well as providing guidance around energy intakes, it also features information on front-of-pack food labelling to encourage us to use it to choose foods lower in fat, salt and sugars when shopping. It is hoped that the Eatwell Guide which puts all advice around foods, nutrients and health into simple messages, will help everyone to make informed choices about the foods, drinks and dietary patterns that promote good health.