Date Published: 16 September 2007

A balanced diet is a healthy diet - UK FSA

Health Food - illustrating an item from the UK Food Standards Agency.

People are confused about what foods they can eat and are not sure what a healthy balanced diet looks like, reveals a new survey by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA).

These findings coincide with the launch of the new eatwell plate, a practical tool that cuts through the array of conflicting messages around food and reminds us what a healthy diet is. It helps people make confident choices about what they eat by clearly showing the types and proportions of foods that strike a good balance.

Whether people are eating out or cooking food at home, the eatwell plate is a useful reminder of what types of foods we should try to eat more or less of for a balanced and healthy daily diet.

The eatwell plate shows we should try to eat lots of starchy foods, such as bread, pasta, potatoes and rice, as well as plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Of the 2,094 people surveyed:

  • 73% recognised we should aim to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, but only 11% said we should eat a lot of starchy foods – showing that people don’t always realise the benefit of eating bread, rice, potatoes and pasta.
  • 97% recognised that fresh fruit and vegetables count towards the 5-a-day target – this figure dropped to about half for tinned (45%) and frozen (54%) fruit and vegetables and dried fruit (53%), all of which do contribute towards our daily intake.

On the subject of eating foods high in fat and sugar, which make up the smallest proportion of the eatwell plate:

  • almost two thirds (58%) recognised that we should only eat them occasionally, when given a list of options to choose from.
  • however around one fifth (19%) incorrectly said that to enjoy these types of food we should eat 'plenty of fruit and vegetables to outweigh' the consumption of high fat and sugar foods, which is not a sensible approach.

Rosemary Hignett, Head of Nutrition at the Food Standards Agency said:

" The eatwell plate is a reminder of the essentials – the secret is simply knowing the proportions of a balanced diet and making easy, practical food swaps where we can. It’s not a 10-minute fad; it’s a diet for life that we know will help reduce the number of diet-related illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers, which are on the rise in the UK.

This is about a simple, straightforward approach that allows us to enjoy a varied diet that includes foods from all groups. Once armed with the knowledge of what we should try to eat more or less of, there are other tools available such as nutritional front of pack labelling to help with choices about salt, sugar and fat in our food. "


Source: Food Standards Agency (FSA), UK.

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