There are considered to be five combined food groups which, when consumed in the correct amounts, will provide all the vitamins and minerals needed for maintaining a healthy body. These groups are: starchy foods, fruit and vegetables, protein, dairy and fats and sugars. Each of these groups contains foods that are nutritionally important, but it is key to our health and fitness that we understand how much we should eat and also exercise control over the portion sizes we serve up.
To help with this the Government produced an “eat well plate”, as part of its guidelines designed for “the health of the nation”, which shows the suggested daily percentage consumption of each of the five food groups for maintaining a healthy body. The percentages recommended are:
Bread, cereal, potatoes (starchy foods) 33%
Fruit and vegetables 33%
Fats and sugars 8%
(101% due to rounding up)
The picture below shows what these percentages look like on a plate.
The five food groups are described in more detail below, but as well as making sure we are including the right percentage of food from each group into our daily diet, we need to make sure the portions are the right size to ensure we are not going over our daily calorie requirement. Remember that every calorie consumed and not exerted in energy will lead to weight gain. It is generally assumed that women need to consume around 2,000 calories per day and men around 2,500 calories, however, if you are on a weight loss, restricted diet for health reasons, you exercise a lot or do manual labour, your requirements will differ.
Please contact me if you would like further information or to talk specifics.
As promised, here is some more information on the food groups:
Bread, cereal and potatoes (starchy foods). Foods such as cereals, bread, pasta, rice and potatoes are an essential part of a healthy diet. They contain simple or complex carbohydrates which are an important source of energy and provide fuel for the body. Fibre-rich foods in this category are whole grain ones such as brown rice, wholemeal/wholewheat bread, bran and oatmeal.
Fruit and vegetables. Fresh fruit and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, fibre and enzymes which are essential for a healthy body. Different categories of fruit and vegetables offer different health benefits, e.g. green leafy vegetables are rich in iron (which is important for the blood); citrus fruits are high in vitamin C (important for fighting infection and utilising stored energy). Fruit and vegetables also contain quantities of antioxidants which protect the body from potentially harmful substances.
Protein. Meat, fish, beans and eggs are good sources of protein which is necessary for growth and repair of body tissue.
Dairy products. These include milk, cheese, cream, butter and yogurt. They are an excellent source of calcium and protein. Dairy foods are also rich in vitamins A, B and C. Most milk products are high in fats which help provide energy and build up the body, however, they should be consumed in moderation because of the fat content.
Fats and sugars. Foods containing fat and sugar are powerful sources of energy. Fats such as butter, cheese, dressings and oils are high in calories and sweets such as jams, confectionery and soft drinks contain high amounts of sugar. Most foods in this category do not contain vitamins and minerals and are known as empty calorie foods. These foods should not be consumed in high quantities as they can be a cause of obesity. Unsaturated fats such as those found in vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, oily fish and avocados are beneficial as they help lower cholesterol levels.
The NHS daily reference intakes for the average adult are shown below, this is a guideline and you may need more or less of one or all groups depending on your situation. Again, please contact me to discuss further.
Total fat: less than 70g
Saturates: less than 20g
Carbohydrate: at least 260g
Total sugars: 90g
Salt: less than 6g