Jun 2, 2008, 6:28 AM
The Food Standards Agency has designed the 'eatwell plate' to help people get the appropriate balance of foods and nutrients in their daily diet.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay active
The key to a healthy balanced diet is not to ban or omit any foods or food groups but to balance what you eat by consuming a variety of foods from each food group in the right proportions for good health.
The five food groups on the eatwell plate are:
Fruit and vegetables
These should make up about a third of your daily diet and can be eaten as part of every meal, as well as being the first choice for a snack.
You should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. Research suggests this can help to protect against cancer, obesity and various chronic diseases such as heart disease. This is because of the unique package of nutrients and plant compounds they contain.
Bread, rice, potatoes and pasta
This food group should also make up about a third of your diet and contains the starchy carbohydrates that are the body's main source of energy.
When selecting products from this food group, choose unrefined carbohydrates over those that have been refined, as they will contain the whole of the grain. Wholegrain foods are rich in fibre and other nutrients that have many health benefits, and people who consume wholegrains seem to have a reduced risk of certain cancers, diabetes and coronary heart disease.
The final third of the eatwell plate is made up of three groups containing foods that need to be consumed in smaller proportions than the other two principal categories. These food groups also contain nutrients essential to our diet, so it's important not to leave them out altogether.
Milk and dairy foods
These should be eaten in moderation because of their high saturated fat content, but they're an important source of calcium, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth. Choose low-fat or reduced-fat versions.
Meat, fish, eggs and beans
This food group includes both animal and plant sources of protein, which is a major functional and structural component of all cells. Protein provides the body with between 10 and 15 per cent of its dietary energy, and is needed for growth and repair.
Foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar
This group makes up the smallest section on the eatwell plate and includes foods that should only be eaten sparingly because, although they're an important energy source, they contain very few nutrients and are often known as 'empty calories'.
Foods from this group are high in unhealthy components such as saturated fat, trans fatty acids, sugar and salt - all of which are associated with an increased risk of developing certain diseases.
They should only be eaten as occasional treats, or to increase the palatability of other important foods (such as olive oil on salads, a scraping of spread on bread, or a sprinkling of sugar on some tart fruits).
How to eat a balanced diet
Eat a variety of foods to obtain all of the essential nutrients
Too much as well as too little can be bad for you - balance is required
Everyone's plate will look slightly different as we all have different requirements depending on our body's shape and size, and our levels of activity.