Less sugar and red meat on menu in new healthy eating guide


A new healthy eating guide lessens the role of cake, biscuits and sweets in people's diets and provides a new warning to eat less red and processed meat.

The new Eatwell Guide unveiled by Public Health England (PHE) is designed to replace the healthy eating "plate" with new, updated guidance on eating more fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates and cutting down on high-fat foods and sugar.

The previous plate had an 8% segment dedicated to Battenberg cake, chocolate, sweets, Victoria sponge, crisps, biscuits and cola.

But this has now gone and the new image puts high-fat and high-sugar foods outside the healthy eating "wheel", with a warning to "eat less often and in small amounts".

The dairy section - which was previously stuffed with a selection of cheeses including Stilton - has also been slimmed down to almost half its previous size and replaced with pictures of mainly lower fat options.

The beans, pulses, fish, meat and eggs section remains the same size but now advises people to eat more of these foods and "eat less red and processed meat".

People are also given new advice to drink six to eight glasses a day of water or lower fat milk, or sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee.

Fruit juices and smoothies should also be limited to one 150ml glass a day and these should only count once towards people's five-a-day. Some manufacturers have said their smoothies and juices contain two portions of fruit or veg.

Meanwhile, the new guide tells consumers to eat "at least" five portions of fruit and veg per day, and make fruit and veg a bigger part of their diets than previously. 

The advice for potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates is to "choose wholegrain or higher fibre versions with less added fat, salt and sugar". This section has been beefed up to give a slightly bigger role for these foods.

A new oils and spreads section also tells people to "choose unsaturated oils and use in small amounts".

PHE recommended that people eat 30g of fibre per day - equivalent to five portions of fruit and vegetables, two whole-wheat cereal biscuits, two thick slices of wholemeal bread and one large baked potato with the skin on.

Current figures suggest that people only consume around 19g of fibre per day - less than two thirds the recommended amount.

PHE also said adults should consume less sugar, salt and saturated fat, with less than 6g of salt per day and less than 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men.

It said adults currently consume twice as much sugar as recommended while children have more than three times too much.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: "The evidence shows that we should continue to base our meals on starchy carbohydrates, especially wholegrain, and eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day.

"On the whole, cutting back on foods and drinks that are high in saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories would improve our diets, helping to reduce obesity and the risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease and some cancers.

"A smoothie, together with fruit juice, now only counts as one of your five-a-day and should be drunk with a meal as it's high in sugar."

The new guide is for adults and children aged five and over.

Douglas Twenefour, deputy head of care at Diabetes UK, said: "We are pleased to see the removal of foods that are high in added sugar, salt and saturated fat such as cakes, crisps and chocolate, from the eatwell plate.

"Diabetes UK is not saying that people should completely cut out occasional treats from their diet. However, by removing these foods from the plate, Public Health England is now sending an even clearer message to people as to how they can reduce their risk of obesity and improve their health."

The Meat Advisory Panel, which is funded by the meat industry, said the guidance on red and processed meat was "very disappointing and out of step with recent Government reports showing that average intakes of red meat have fallen in recent years and are now similar to the UK official target".

Dr Emma Derbyshire, from the panel, said: "Blanket messages to reduce red meat consumption could be very detrimental to the diets of consumers who already eat low to moderate amounts of red meat; for example, women and young people."

The Children's Food Trust's head of nutrition, Dr Patricia Mucavele, said the guide helped youngsters learn about a healthy diet and she was pleased to "see that water is being promoted".

She added: "We still think there's a clear place for better information on what makes a healthy portion size for children at different ages to help parents at the supermarket, in restaurants, and when they're cooking for children at home."

Terry Jones, director-general of the Provision Trade Federation (PTF), told Farmers Weekly the guide was a "kick in the teeth" for hard-pressed dairy farmers, struggling to cope with milk prices below the cost of production.

He said: "I find it staggering that, at a time when ministers are expressing their support for the sector, an executive agency of government should not only put out a message that will encourage consumers to reduce their consumption of dairy products, but also seemingly ignore the positive role they can play in public health."