In a world where making food choices can become overwhelming. There are so many new and old voices, conflicting advice, diet plans, ‘what I eat in a day’ influencers, gym bros and £20 Groupon course nutrition experts. Who to trust and what advice to follow can feel like a struggle. Let’s break it down.
In the UK current nutrition guidelines are set out by a governing body – Public Health England. You may have seen the below - The Eatwell Guide - which was introduced in 2016.
This gives us a visual guide of how different foods can make up a varied and balanced
diet. It is based on the 5 food groups (fruit and veg, starchy carbohydrates, dairy and dairy alternatives, protein (plant-based [pulses, tofu, soya, tempeh, nuts, seeds], mycoprotein
and meat), unsaturated oils and spreads.
What about Carbohydrates?
The guide is divided into sections so we can see the amount that each food group contributes towards a healthy balanced diet. You may have heard the countless voices criticising the proportion of carbohydrates as the guide appears to encourage large portions. However, the guide recommends we ‘base our meals’ ideally ‘on starchy carbs’ - foods that keep us fuller for longer like wholegrain pasta, rice, bread, oats etc.
In some instances, this may not be possible if someone is suffering from a long-term health
condition, in which case they should follow dietary advice given to them by their GP/ dietician. It is important we don’t start cutting out entire food groups as this can lead to deficiencies but discover what works and does not work well for you. If you’re really
stuck its worth having a refresher on portion sizes (see on the right – taken from the BHF food portions page).
Remember these guidelines are not a strict eat this not that, it is a guide. You don’t have to include all 5 food groups into every single meal or even every day. Can you imagine trying to introduce meat and veg with your breakfast every single day so it meets the recommendations? It’s not realistic and achievable. The key message here is to keep your diet varied and balanced.
Is the Guide Inclusive?
This guide is designed to be suitable regardless of an individuals weight, dietary restrictions or preference and ethnic origin. However, it is arguable whether this guide is truly inclusive. This guide is certainly a step-up from the 2007 Eatwell Plate and 1994 Balance of Good Health models. However, the proportion of nutrients an individual needs can be influenced by body size, age and lifestyle. Food for thought: so, is this truly suited towards everyone?
Overall, if anyone is looking into nutrition and eating for health and wellbeing the Eatwell Guide can be a good starting point. I would encourage you to take it step by step. You haven’t got to figure out everything all at once, you haven’t got to know whether you should drink almond milk or dairy milk, whether you should eat plant-based protein or meat products, whether you should eat 7-9 portions of fruit and veg every day etc.
We often want quick and easy solutions. We want to know what works and what doesn’t. But it is okay to take your time, enjoy the experience of discovering new tastes and combos. Anyone who is curious and interested in nutrition, don’t focus too much on the end-goal, enjoy the journey.
For more information:
Having graduated with a BSc in Nutrition I am in the process of applying for the Associate Registered Nutritionist title (ANutr). This means I would uphold the AFN Standards of Ethics, Conduct and Performance at all times and have provided evidence to meet these stringent standards. I aim to provide accurate and clear information to the public about nutrition, and not to provide any false or misleading information. All the information in my article are independent, unless declared otherwise.
The aim of my article is to inform readers around current hot topics and help unravel the confusion around health, nutrition and wellbeing using evidence-based nutrition. Any information in my article should not replace getting personalised nutrition advice from a registered Dietitian, nurse of doctor.